“It’s great to meet you - is this your first time seeing a podiatrist?
- Yeah it is, and I was a bit surprised to see podiatry on my management plan from my GP. But he said my feet are important and I need to see a podiatrist regularly now. So I thought I’d come and find out what it’s all about.”
This excerpt above is from a conversation with a new patient that had been recently diagnosed with diabetes. We have various versions of this conversation every week, and often with those that have had their diabetes diagnosis for many years. While this conversation would typically be followed by the start of a comprehensive diabetic foot assessment with our team, today we’re giving you the low-down on the seven key things that your podiatrist really wants you to know and remember from your appointment.
1. Your Feet Don’t Have To Feel ‘Different’ To Be Affected In A Serious Way
You may already know that diabetes affects your ability to feel and detect what is happening around your feet when you walk or move (if you don’t know anything about this, read this page). While many people experience this neuropathy in the form of pins and needles, numbness, burning and tingling, you don’t have to feel these ‘abnormal’ sensations to have your feet seriously affected by diabetes.
One of the most dangerous forms of neuropathy is where the sensation is simply missing from certain areas of the feet. As you don’t feel any numbness, you don’t realise that anything is wrong, and so you can step on something sharp or become injured without realising. Without the right care, this can quickly become infected, turn into an ulcer, or worse.
2. 85% Of Diabetic Amputations Are Preventable
There are more than 4,400 amputations in Australia every year as a result of diabetes. While some people consider this an inevitability, this is far from the truth - approximately 85% of diabetic foot amputations are preventable if the original wounds are detected early, and professional help is sought appropriately.
Early detection is not a tough, complex action either - it is truly as simple as taking 30 seconds to hold your feet to a mirror once every day, inspecting for anything out of the ordinary - skin changes, new cuts or wounds - and booking an appointment if you notice something. If you live with family, you can ask for their help in checking your feet, too.
3. One Week With An Open Wound Is A Concern
Our body is designed to be very efficient at healing and repair. You may have noticed that if you get a cut or scratch on your foot, it should ‘close’ within a matter of hours. For a bigger wound, it may take a few days. As with anything, there are additional factors like your circulation, which can slow down your healing rate and also add a day or two to the equation. Either way, if your wound is still open after one week of getting it, it’s time to get it checked by a professional. Not only is it indicative that something is going on that is preventing or delaying it from healing, but walking around with an open wound puts you at a significant risk of infection, particularly when you’re doing so for long periods.
Getting slow-to-heal wounds professionally cared for in their early stages is one of the key ways to help prevent both diabetic foot ulcers and amputations.
4. Treatment For Diabetic Neuropathy Has Come A Long Way
With neuropathy being a common presentation in diabetes that has traditionally not been ‘treated’ but instead ‘managed’ by reducing the risks, recent advances in technology and a growing body of scientific evidence have seen the use of innovative, low-level lasers to manage neuropathic pain in both the short and long terms, improve blood flow to the feet that can help damaged nerves to perform better and may even promote nerve repair. We have this laser as one of our treatment options in the clinic, available to our patients.
5. Some Shoes Are Optimised For Those With Diabetes
Some of the injuries we see on the feet of our patients with diabetes are inflicted by their own shoes - and this is where most people don’t realise that there’s an alternative. Diabetic-friendly shoes like the Anodyne range are built to be seamless - meaning no rubbing or pressure injuries from seams that stick out. They have a wide toe box, are deeper than normal shoes, are lightweight so they don’t drag your feet down, and they have comfortable footbeds that can be removed and replaced with custom foot orthotics we design to help reduce pressure away from areas that are at risk of ulcerating, like when you have a prominent bone or joint.
When you’re doing everything you can do to avoid pains and problems in your feet, it can feel comforting and reassuring to know that your shoes are on your side and built to support your foot health.
6. Your Management Plan Gives You Up To Five Rebated Visits With Us
While anyone with diabetes is recommended to have a diabetic foot assessment every year to check their foot health status and any changes that have occurred since the last visit, depending on what your GP has allocated, you can actually have up to five rebated visits per year by Medicare. The other four visits are typically used by patients to maintain their skin and toenails. This is particularly beneficial for those that have corns, callus, thick and hard toenails, or can no longer reach their toes safely on their own. Not only do you have a foot health professional to care for all these aspects at each visit, but this is four more opportunities for us to check over your feet at your visit and flag anything unusual.
7. Our Job Is To Save Your Feet, Not Badger You About Blood Sugar Levels
We’ve had a wide range of conversations with patients throughout our career where, when discussing their diabetes and the last time they saw their doctor for certain things, the response was they didn’t want to go back to see them because every time they’d leave feeling badgered about their blood sugar levels.
While we absolutely support the importance of regulating and maintaining your blood sugar not only for your foot health but also your overall health, we want you to know that we take you as a person very seriously, and want you to come away from each appointment feeling empowered, understood and well taken care of - instead of feeling dismissed or put down.
If you’re worried about your feet, have noticed something out of the ordinary, or simply have questions that you want answers to, we invite you to join us at our clinic and see one of our experienced, knowledgeable podiatrists. Your foot health is incredibly important to us, and we pride ourselves on delivering exceptional care to every person.
Book your appointment with our podiatrists in our Brisbane CBD or Newmarket clinics online here or call us on 1300 993 338.