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?
Last week I was invited to the Headquarters of ESKOM our Electricity Supply Commission, to talk about footwear selection and the effects of high heels, amongst other things!
From the outset it was clear that ESKOM is very concerned about safety – we were briefed on where and how to get out of the venue should there be a ‘problem’ – before the talks began.
It seems that the greatest cause of occupational injuries at Eskom HQ is Slips, Trips & Falls, nothing to do with electricity at all! So they decided to do something about the problem by discussing it. There were two scientists from the National Institute for Occupational Health also presenting and they showed some of the scary activities that employees do in incorrect footwear. Like climbing ladders, wearing high heeled shoes on slippery floors, or wet floors.
Even with the current fashion for lower heeled shoes amongst women, there was a slipping incident at ESKOM recently.
Flooring was identified as a major cause of slips at work, but also there is the choice of inappropriate footwear as I pointed out previously. Amongst other causes are uneven floors, poor lighting.
Having a spare pair of shoes at work is one solution, so that when you have to go to meetings or interact with clients you can put on your more fashionable ones.
However, perhaps the most basic concept is to be aware of your surroundings. For example, how many of us have fallen on our backsides at sometime in our lives, when at the poolside? In other words look where you are going!
Responsibility for foot health safety rests with employee and employer.
The Health & Safety legislation is designed to protect everybody. Including the forklift driver who says he must wear tekkies instead of safety shoes, because the safety shoes hurt. Fine, but remember that if you get hurt, there is no compensation.
However, I do blame employers who budget for only the cheapest safety footwear, when being distracted by uncomfortable footwear could lead to an accident at work. There is a real need to look to buy the best safety footwear the company can afford. It’s people’s health after all.
On the other hand, the beautiful corporate HQ with imported tiled floors, may actually be an accident waiting to happen.
Paying attention to where you are walking and what you are doing is another important measure in preventing slips, trips & falls. What do I mean? The dreaded cellphone! Walking & talking can be just as dangerous as driving and talking.
We had a good discussion about high heels!
On my way through the campus I noticed a beautiful young woman tip-toeing along past a wet floor [it was well-marked by the cleaning staff with warning boards] on what I guess were 7cm high heels. Her strides were very short and she wobbled along to keep from slipping on the tiled floor.
As I’ve pointed out before, a high heel shortens your stride and reduces your ability to walk normally. Add to this a shiny floor and there is an accident waiting to happen.
In the ESKOM HQ and many others I’m sure, the floors are spotlessly clean and shiny. Usually tiled and very smooth. This means that there is little grip between the sole of your shoe and the floor. An ideal situation for a slip, trip or fall.
Foot Health and Safety at work is everyones business and responsiblity.
Choosing the correct footwear for walking is very important. With the Talk Radio 702 Walk the Talk coming up this Sunday 26th July, there will be 50,000 people strolling, walking, meandering, marching and even racing through the streets of Johannesburg.
The most important thing is to keep to the footwear that you have been using, don’t treat yourself to a new pair of trainers for the day, because although they may feel quite good at first, they need a bit of wear to ‘bed in’.
I suppose that there will be some serious hikers/walkers in the race and they will know that the best footwear is your regular well worn (not worn out) footwear. If you are walking, just for fun, in your old worn out trainers, you might be better to walk in your most comfortable more formal shoes!
A firm but cushioning sole is best. Firmly laced, not too tightly, because your feet will swell a little and if laced too tightly, the lacing and tongue will press on the nerves on top of your feet, making them numb or tingly.
If you do get these symptoms, stop and re-tie your laces, rather then get pain. The fit around the heel must be close, so that there is no excessive sliding of your foot, because excessive sliding or shearing causes blisters.
Choice of socks is very personal. Thick or thin they should be able to absorb some of the sweat that you are going to shed. It’s worth using a thicker cotton sock rather than a woollen one.
Although many walkers and runners use no socks or even the feet out of stockings, again use what you are used to.
If you have been getting blisters during your preparation for the race, try putting a ‘blob’ of Vaseline over the place that blisters, it works as a lubricant and will reduce the risk of blistering.
An alternative is to cover a sensitive area with plaster, just beware of putting it where it could roll up and cause a sore spot.
Tactically, watch out for getting sucked along at a faster pace than you want to, or are able to go. This is one way to pick up an injury and get painful feet. You must try to keep to your own pace.
After the race, if you have blisters or any foot problem, look out for the University of Johannesburg Podiatry Caravan and treatment area, they will be able to help with most foot problems.
Chilblains are associated with cold winter conditions, often worsened by wet weather.
So as I go off to the Cape for a few days I’ll give you some suggestions to protect against ‘winter feet’.
Chilblains affect all age groups and both sexes, but girls and women do seem to suffer more.
Keep your feet warm and dry. Avoid socks with synthetic fibres, that can make your feet sweaty and cold.
Some modern fibres ‘wick away’ sweat, but you can get cold. Try a pair of mohair socks – Visit the Cape Mohair website.
If you are sitting for some time, try wrapping your legs in a loose-fitting blanket(think of the bottom of a sleeping bag).
Do wriggling and waggling exercises to keep the circulation moving in your leg muscles. Don’t sit for long periods, because if you have a sluggish circulation it makes it worse.
STOP SMOKING! The spasm or constriction of your blood arteries from ONE cigarette lasts 6 hours.
Take regular walks in well-fitting shoes. Tight shoes press the blood out of your toes. Thicker sole are important to protect your feet from the cold and wet. Boots are good but high fashion ones often don’t keep your feet warm.
Chilblains are the result of a defective response to a cold stimulus. For example: when you take the chicken out of the deep freeze, the nerves in your fingers send and receive a message which causes the nerves to the blood vessels to shut down to protect the fingers from the cold.
When you have the chicken out on the kitchen worktop and you are back in the normal temperature the reverse messages happens, and you get a bit of a tingling feeling as the blood flow returns to normal.
If this system has a delayed response – for whatever reason – the fingers remain cold, because the blood is lacking oxygen. Soon the body recognises this as abnormal and tries to fix it with an inflammatory response.
This can settle things with just a little swelling and pain in the fingers, but usually this process ends up with red, painful, swollen fingers, which look like cocktail sausages.
In some cases, this process is the result of a significant vascular disease, for example – Raynauds Syndrome(or Phenomenon). If you suffer from this you will know and should be havinr treatment – it is characterised by spontaneous spasm of the blood vessels of the hands – where you get an unexpected cold finger or fingers, at any time of year, but especially in winter.
Treatment for chilblains is difficult and usually centres around prevention. Shoes, socks and footwear as I have said.
There are some medicines prescribed by doctors called Vaso-dilators, but often topical preparations such as Thrombophob or Reparil Gel are tried.
Some Homeopathic preparations include Vitamin A and Nicotinic Acid which act as circulatory stimulants. Getting into a warm bed helps – but don’t sleep with your feet up against a hot water bottle!
As I write this in Hout Bay, I’m happy to report that it has been a beautiful sunny and dry day.
Take care of your pair. No more smoking. Regular exercise. Keep chilblains away this winter.
Thousands of South African children go back to school tomorrow. How many with foot pain?
We don’t know the facts, because the research hasn’t been done. But as children grow, so do their feet. So it’s a safe bet that many feet will be pushed into shoes that were bought at the beginning of the school year in January and are too small 6 months later in July.
On the other hand there will be some children who will suffer the discomfort of a brand new pair of school shoes! It’s not true that shoes have to be “worn in.” They should fit properly and be comfortabl from the start.
Most children wont tell their parents that their shoes are too small, because the soft, developing bones can be easily squeezed and squashed into position. In addition, in the current economic climate, the cost of a new pair of school shoes often has to be balanced against food, rent or travel expenses.
Try to look at your children’s shoes as soon as possible after the start of the term. They have probably complained about having to wear them anyway – having not worn them for a month. Get them to stand up in their school socks and you press gently on the end of each shoe to find the ends of the toes. If there isn’t a finger space at the end, they are too short.
Don’t try the other method of pushing a finger down the back of the foot behind the heel. The shoes should fit around the heels and allow the feet to lie nicely in their normal position. Check also for uneven wear on either side of the shoes – this shows flattening or ‘out-turning’. If the shoes are deforming you should get to see a podiatrist for a check up.
A final word on hockey, rugby and soccer boots. If your child complains that the soles of the feet are sore, have a look for red marks over the areas where the studs are. You probably need to put a soft cushion insole inside to limit stud pressure.
Can’t wait for the next school holidays!
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!).