Do you know your foot health risk status? Have you had your feet thoroughly examined by a podiatrist? Experts Worldwide in their guidelines for the management of diabetes recommend an annual foot examination at the very least. This foot examination establishes the risk for complications or your Foot Health Risk Status. If you are aware of this, so many foot problems associated with Diabetes could be prevented.
These foot complications can be as simple as a painful corn or as complicated as an amputation. Of course if you have reduced sensation – peripheral neuropathy – there won’t be much pain and probably non at all.
As a podiatrist I would like to be celebrating an improvement in the foot health of South Africans, but unfortunately many people with diabetes have never seen a podiatrist, mistakenly believing that since they have no visible foot problems everything is fine.
Diabetes causes changes to the circulation and nerves to the legs and feet which often develop slowly and almost without notice. I have heard people say that they have the less serious diabetes “the second type.” Comments like this make me realise that the Foot Health message is still not reaching our patients clearly.
Managing diabetes is a team effort and the podiatrist is a member of the team. If you neglect your feet and have no idea if they are showing the effects of diabetes, you are probably going to develop, corns, callus, blisters, ulcers and worse. Do you know the quality of your circulation? Are you sure you can feel everything with your nerves?
Why not commit to better foot health today by making an appointment with a podiatrist for a diabetic foot assessment?
On July 28 2008, on this website I wrote about Dialysis and the diabetic foot, with a description of a foot ulcer patient.
Last week I was invited to speak to patients of the Cape Town Dialysis Clinics about foot care; during my preparation I came across some startling evidence proving that dialysis is an independent risk factor for foot ulceration if you have diabetes and require dialysis.
We already know that impaired kidney function increases the risk of foot ulcers – also referred to in my 2008 Blog – but this 2010 research proves that:
If you have diabetes and are receiving dialysis, you are 5 times more likely to develop foot ulcers, compared to someone with diabetes who is not on dialysis.
Scary but true clear evidence from a study completed at Manchester UK.
The research showed that patients on dialysis have more nerve damage, circulatory problems and a history of foot ulcers and amputations.
There is a 25% lifetime risk of people with diabetes developing foot ulcers so the key issue whatever your status is prevention.
Diabetic foot ulcers have multiple causes, some are: external trauma from footwear, neuropathy, arterial damage, poor self-care, lack of access to care, poor treatment.
However, as with all research you must ask – “so what?” This patient group did not include any people of colour, so it may not apply totally to South African patients.
So what to do? our objective is always to PREVENT complications.
Every person with diabetes must have an ANNUAL FOOT EXAMINATION so that they understand their level of risk for developing foot complications.
in addition individual education on self management of their diabetes. this is a team effort, paying attention to cardio-vascular health, eyesight, footwear selection and fitting, foot biomechanics (and possibly insoles or orthotics), plus probably the most important factor – can you invest in the care being offered?
Always “take care of your pair”.
World Diabetes Day takes place every November 14th. Diabetes is a serious chronic disease. It is estimated that 250 million people worldwide have diabetes (about 6% of the adult population between 20 -79 years). This number is expected to reach 380 million by 2025, (7.1% of the adult population)
Every 30 seconds a leg is lost to diabetes somewhere in the world!
Many diabetic foot ulcers and amputations can be prevented
Starting this week podiatrists nationwide will be promoting foot health awareness in various ways as their contribution to preventing the complications of Diabetes.
Check your local press for details of free screenings, talks, fun walks etc., often with Diabetes SA.
In our practice free screenings can be booked via Lauretta. 011 726 6363.
Nationwide contact the South African Podiatry Association; 011 7943297
Screening is a short observation of key signs to identify the risk level of your feet.
Not every person with diabetes is at risk, but some are and have no idea that they are.
If you know that you are at risk, the podiatrist will become a key person in your life.
Act now – your life might depend on it!
Take this opportunity to finf out your risk status.
Foot problems can spoil our holidays, because they are so unexpected. If you click on Foot Health Articles on this site, you can get some tips on holiday care for people with diabetes, I also wrote about a patient who suffered a holiday foot injury when he fractured his metatarsal as a result of a swimming pool fall! Also, check out the post on Holidays: Sore feet and sun back on 13 December 2008.
If you have been spending lot’s of time in the pool you might have felt your feet burning. Watch out for the surface of the pool – if it is a bit rough -rubbing the skin on your soles away. [This happened to a little girl I know recently]. You get red-raw skin because the protective outer layer is worn away. Just treat the area with antiseptic and a plaster, to keep the ‘bugs’ out and avoid an infection.
You can get a similar effect after that first, long-awaited barefoot walk along your stretch of beach! Our feet are usually protected in shoes and the skin is quite soft; our soft city-dwellers’ feet need a gentle introduction to the great outdoors!
Even regular runners can get burning soles after that early morning barefoot ‘quick 5 kays’ along beach! So don’t be afraid to wear your tekkies on the beach.
Sunburn is probably the most obvious holiday foot problem. Mostly to the tops of our feet and the front of the ankles. Use a high SPF cream or spray and re-apply during the day and if you go in the water.
Shoe rubbing is very common on holiday, as we spend more time in sandals. So look out for pressure or friction points that cause blisters – often made worse when there is sea sand added to the mix.
If you are somewhere exotic this New Year, try not to let sea anemone spines, puffer fish or jelly fish spoil your fun – but who really sees them coming anyway?
Then there are always the snakes! Whenever you go into potential ‘snake- country’, think ahead and be prepared. Make sure at least one person in your group is equipped to deal with a snake bite.
Unfortunately, this time year produces a number of common injuries like cuts from hidden glass and metal, plus aches and pains from too much walking, golf or frisbee! So don’t worry too much about that new heel pain, achilles tenderness or arch pain. It should settle down – if not – see a podiatrist.
The same goes for that itchy rash – could be fungus!
However you celebrate the New Year – from where I am, I’ll get a free fireworks show on Kleinleeuwkoppie at Hout Bay, courtesy of Sol Kerzner – I wish you and your families all the best for 2010.
Many older people suffer a fall with consequent injury such as a fractured shoulder, wrist, hip, ankle or foot. In the UK there is an active falls prevention initiative, promoted by the National Health Service. Not so in South Africa, although we are aware of the problem.
Have you ever thought how the state of your feet could contribute to a fall? Podiatrists should be involved in preventing falls and your visit to one could help to prevent one.
Hazel Tomkins, a British podiatrist, writing in Podiatry Now has detailed how your feet can cause a fall.
So, if you want to stand on your own two feet here’s what to look out for.
Any corn, callus, ulceration, painful nail condition alters the way your foot hits the ground. This usually makes walking uncomfortable and unsteady. With age, the cushioning fatty pad on the soles of the feet thins out – giving less protection to the bones and joints underneath.
Changes to the basic shape of the feet alters the ability to walk evenly. Often the cause of these changes is reduced muscle strength. On the other hand, any change in posture – quite common as we age – is associated with weakening of our muscles, so there is the potential for loss of balance or unsteadiness.
Watch out for changes to the length of your legs after hip or knee replacement surgery. The pain has gone but you really do need to do all the physiotherapy to restore muscle strength and balance.
At the same time there are many changes to hearing and eyesight which affect the ability to balance and see clearly what is going on around us.
If you have any nerve changes associated with diabetes (neuropathy), you are disadvantaged, because you have a reduced ability to respond to the sensory stimuli around you. On the other hand, arthritis can cause deformity as well as stiffness, making movement difficult, slower or unsteady.
Research into barefoot walking showed a 19% worse performance when barefoot compared with even a least unstable shoe. Going barefoot or stocking feet dramatically increases the falls risk.
Simple you might think, I’ll wear slippers or shoes. Well this is an area of some dispute. There is good scientific evidence that if you change to a lower or flat heel after a lifetime of wearing high heels, you have a greater risk of falling! At the same time there is research which suggests that the most important feature of footwear in preventing falls is the grip of the sole on the ground. Added to that is the need for good fit and thicker soles.
So what to do?
Keep mobile – exercise regularly – start walking, even if you use a walking aid. Maybe you need to start using one? Make sure that you can see and hear as well as possible.
A visit to a podiatrist for a biomechanical assessment is an important way to identify any underlying structural and functional problems. Treatment of any painful foot condition, such as corns and calluses, is essential and information on the best shoes for you, will be provided.
Avoid higher heels, barefoot walking and slippers. Consider wearing trainers with a rippled sole. A word of warning though, some trainers have really ‘grippy’ soles and that can cause a fall!
Try to remove all loose carpet runners and potential hazards that you could trip over. Make sure the lighting in your home is adequate (most falls occur at home!).
It takes team work to prevent falls, so get any advice that you can, or share it with those who you know are at most risk of a fall.
The International Fedaration of Podiatrists, headquartered in Paris, France, has declared May to be World Foot Health Awareness Month. I join them in calling the attention of the public and health care providers to the importance of good foot and ankle care. It’s time for all South Africans to stop and take a look at their feet!
The importance of good foot health and the role played by the podiatrist cannot be overstated, since, most South Africans will develop some foot or ankle problem during their lifetime. World Foot Health Awareness Month is a marvellous opportunity to stop and consider the value and importance of our feet.
Winter is nearly here and we will be spending more time in closed shoes. Do last year’s boots really still fit? Are they going to cause pressure calluses?
Don’t wait for your foot problem to become severe. Remember that the average person takes about 8,000 to 10,000 steps per day and while you’re walking, your feet are taking a pounding; often enduring more than your body weight with each step.
As part of World Foot Health Awareness Month 2009, there is a special focus on Diabetes and the Diabetes Health Care Team. In support of this initiative, the South African Diabetic Foot Working Group (DFWG), will be presenting free patient-oriented symposia nationwide.
30th May. Contact: Andrika Symington: 012 548 9499
9th May.Contact: Anne Berzen 072 342 9558
13th June. Contact: Dr Willem de Kock 082 379 6231
to be confirmed. Contact: Dr Paruk 031 241000-ask for speed dial
to be confirmed. Watch this space!
These symposia will offer a unique opportunity for people with diabetes and their families to ask questions of the members of the health team directly involved in foot care.
MAY 2009 is WORLD FOOT HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH
Every person who has diabetes, should have an annual foot examination. Feet, along with kidneys and eyes, form the “terrible triad” as it is sometimes called in medical circles; because people with diabetes can develop peripheral arterial disease or peripheral neuropathy(feet); nephropathy(kidneys) and retinopathy(eyes). I have spent the past two days conducting the Annual Foot Examination for people who attend the Potchefstroom Centre for Diabetes (CDE).
How many people with diabetes undergo this annual examination? Who knows? What is certain is that CDE members have to comply with rules which gives them access to all the basic health care professionals they need. (CDE is a Managed Health Care network of over 250 medical practices contracted to certain medical aid schemes).
The benefit of this annual examination is that patients, families and health carers know if the feet are at risk of developing futher complications associated with diabetes. The examination involves checking vascular, neurological, dermatological and orthopaedic status. Footwear is also checked and commented on. The International Consensus for managing the diabetic foot states that early identification of vascular insufficiency and referral to the vascular specialist does save many limbs.
Worldwide of course there is evidence that smoking damages your health, but even in the group at Potchefstroom there were smokers. All of whom had diminished circulation, plus the typical signs of cool feet, absent hair, discoloured pink/blue feet – especially when hanging over the side of the examination couch – and a cough.
Checking the state of sensation is vital for good diabetic foot health. The loss of sensation – neuropathy – is often an insidious process, not being fully appreciated by the patient until they are aware of “funny feelings” in their feet. Patients describe sensations of “pins and needles,” “shooting pains,” “ants running over my feet,” “I thought my sock was folded over under my foot, but it wasn’t,” “it feels like I’m walking on cotton wool” and many others. This could be the first step to damaging the foot and developing an ulcer.
People with diabetes get all the conditions that affect the rest of us. However, if not identified and managed properly an area of callus(which indicates increased local pressure) can easily develop into an ulcer. Various nail conditions are common amongst people with diabetes, especially fungal infections and they are difficult to get rid of.
They structure of any foot affects its function and so in the diabetic foot assessment we look at the alterations in shape that could cause load increases and potential blister or ulcer sites. In addition disorders such as gout are very often associated with diabetes.
Footwear is responsible for at least 50% of foot ulcers, so this is examined very carefully. Unfortunately, many people do not have suitable footwear, so it’s important to check it and give good advice.
Diabetes is a life-threatenting disease, but modern medicine has moved to early diagnosis and treatment and an important part of this is recognition by podiatrists of the signs in the feet. However for the person with diabetes one of the simplest acts to ensuring long life is to have your feet examined annually and know your foot status or risk.
The diabetic foot is often associated with patients who are on dialysis for kidney failure as a result of their diabetes. There is a well known ‘triad’ of eyes/kidneys/feet. What health professionals call retinopathy/nephropathy/neuropathy.
We are managing a gentleman who is suffering the effects of many years of poorly-controlled diabetes, acompanied by smoking. The effect of this has been serious damage to the circulation to his legs. As a result, he has needed arterial bypass surgery and now, three times a week he comes to the hospital for dialysis, because his kidneys are malfunctioning,so his specialist asked us to look after his feet.
On first view we got a real shock – the three outer toes on his right foot were dry, shrivelled and black – typical of dry gangrene. These toes will probably fall off by themselves! The back if the left heel is one large blood blister, fortunately it’s dry and not infected.
The principle of managing cases like this is to keep the areas clean and dry. For the patient they have to do their best to control their blood sugar. The targets for good blood sugar control for a person with diabetes are between 5.5 and 7.0 mmol/litre, so you can imagine my concern at the last visit when I found out that this gentleman was running 15mmol/litre.
Every time the dressings are changed there is the opportunity for bacterial infection and high blood sugar usually worsens the situation. Of course the state of the feet and limbs in an obvious potential cause for the raised blood sugar too.
So what’s the lesson? Mismanage diabetes at your peril! Damage to the nerves and circulation will have a major impact on your life the longer you live. The complications of diabetes are largely preventable, yet vast amounts of money are spent worldwide on managing the complications of diabetes.
Control of blood sugar and not smoking will protect both arteries and nerves from serious damage. Nephropathy or damage to kidneys is life threatening and not everybody can access a dialysis unit. Loss of sensation or neuropathy, where there is no sensation in the feet, allows for injuries to happen without the person noticing.
Don’t become a victim of circumstance – take control of your diabetes now – and avoid dialysis later.
Fresh from the long weekend we welcome Ms Lauretta Zikalala to our podiatry practice. Lauretta is our new receptionist and will be the voice of the practice from today. Back at the practice today, (not exactly fresh!) after a tiring but stimulating weekend at the Diabetic Foot Working Group (DFWG) Congress. Armed with some new knowledge and revision of existing, Tshidi and I feel that we have more to offer our patients with diabetes.
We know that Podiatry and diabetes is not just about managing the serious complications such as foot ulcers. The key issue is the prevention of this complication and research shows that multidisciplinary interventions can reduce both ulcers and amputations. There is a major challenge in South African health care to educate everybody involved in diabetes about the need for proper foot health care.
Just to get patients and professionals to look at feet could prevent many complications. So many patients do not feel pain and are therefore misled into thinking that there is nothing wrong with their feet. Meanwhile they develop blisters from footwear, ulcers from objects like drawing pins, stones and other foreign bodies and burns and scalds from heaters or hot water. It is clear that we will have to develop innovative and cost effective interventions to reduce the numbers of amputations and to improve foot health awareness in South Africa.
For any health professionals reading this; do you know what an angiosome is? I’ll publish some references tomorrow. (I think you will be amazed). For the lay person, angiosomes allow vascular specialists and podiatrists, in the context of patient examination, to accurately assess the quality of blood flow to every part of the lower limbs and feet. This enables really accurate identification of those areas at risk due to inadequate blood supply. Most of us are familiar with the dermatomes which map out the nerve supply, but angisomes are something new. (Well they are to me!).
Tomorrow morning sees the start of the first Diabetic Foot Working Group (DFWG) Congress in Johannesburg. In South Africa it is also a long weekend – meaning that Monday June 16 is a National Holiday, when we remember the youth of SA and their part in the struggle against apartheid. Especially the riots which broke out on June 16 1976.
For those of us dedicated to another great cause, we will spend the next 3 days learning, sharing and discussing the causes and effects of the diabetic foot, with a special emphasis on our local problems and solutions. We have speakers from Cameroon, the UK and USA, in addition to a variety of local speakers. The benefit of this type of congress is that you get to meet the members of the wider multidisciplinary team and the exchange of ideas and information will help to increase the core of health professionals available to manage the feet of people with diabetes in South Africa.
Recently I have been requested to try to assist with the development of training in foot health in Nigeria and have a new contact with an orthopaedic surgeon in Iraq. There are no podiatrists in Nigeria at all, where the population is more than 140 million. Furthermore there is no government support for foot care either.
I am very pleased to report that the lady featured in the ‘bean bag’ blogs, is making fantastic progress, thanks to the skill of my associate Tshidi Tsubane. We are also very proud of the fact we have had a paper published in a new journal – Wound Healing Southern Africa – Volume 1 No 1. visit www.woundhealingsa.co.za
Currently we are working onpapers concerning nail surgery for people with diabetes and the costs of ulcer care from a podiatrist.
Finally for Friday 13th! I spent the day as an examiner for the podiatry students at the University of Johannesburg. I’m not sure who was more tired the students or me. At the end of two sessions of assessing competency in clinical skills you actually feel quite sorry for them.
Have a great weekend.