Podiatry for diabetics with foot problems

Diabetes is a metabolic condition that can cause a number of different complications, including a severe condition known as diabetic foot. Diabetic foot involves progressive changes in the various tissues of the foot that ultimately lead to a state in which the foot is extremely vulnerable to injury and infection. These can also go unnoticed because a gradual loss of sensation leaves most diabetics unaware of the condition of their feet without regular inspection.

Diabetic foot can be severe enough to warrant an amputation of the lower limb to prevent a life threatening infection from spreading to the rest of the body. With that in mind, a lot of emphasis is placed on regular podiatric attention to prevent the progression of the disease to the point where it poses such a dramatic danger to the life of the patient.

Podiatric risk assessments of diabetic foot

Diabetics are advised to attend regular sessions with podiatrists, even I they do not actively suffer from diabetic foot. These sessions allow podiatrists to assess the overall health of the foot, and to discover any lifestyle habits that may pose a risk to a diabetic’s foot. These can include inappropriate footwear for certain activities, or insufficient attention to nails or the general hygiene of the foot.

Diagnosis falls under this category, and as mentioned above, because many diabetics won’t be aware of trauma to their feet, regular sessions give trained podiatrist an opportunity to assess the foot for any signs of the three parts of diabetic foot, ulceration, neuropathy, and infection.

For example a podiatrist can assess neuropathy by carefully testing the foot’s response to various stimuli like soft and hard touch or needling. Similarly diabetics sometimes experience a characteristic pain in the foot which can result in changes in the way they walk (a phenomenon referred to as foot drop), these form characteristic corns and bunions.

The signs and symptoms of these can be quite subtle sometimes, and a trained and experienced eye can pick up on any swelling or inflammation that indicates ulceration, or subtle changes in foot movement that suggest neuropathy (the neurological deterioration of the foot).

Your podiatrist will also probably give diabetics instructions on how to regularly inspect their own feet for any signs of complications of diabetic foot.

Podiatric treatments of the foot

Actual treatment of diabetic foot varies depending on the condition of the patient in question. In many cases, an important part of treatment is making sure that diabetics have access to footwear that won’t exacerbate their condition and cause injury to the foot. Part of this is the provision of customised insoles that cushion the foot and protect it from stress when mobile.

Podiatrists also need to manage corns, blisters, bunions, and verrucae which are susceptible to infections which can quickly become dangerous in the already vulnerable diabetic foot. Podiatrists can pare down hardened skin at these sites regularly to keep them from placing undue pressure on the foot, or suffering injury that can expose a foot to infection.

Padding and specialist socks are applied when necessary to ensure that feet are not subject to undue pressure, particularly if lesions are formed. Another method used in more severe cases is to temporarily place a foot in a cast designed to relieve pressure from a foot.

A podiatrist with the appropriate qualifications can prescribe antibiotics to treat infections of the foot. If your podiatrist doesn’t have the necessary qualification under his or her belt, then he or she can work alongside your GP to ensure that you receive the medication you need.

Ultimately your podiatrist will be trained and experienced enough to recognise the signs and stages of diabetic foot and take appropriate steps to address the condition, whether on their own or in conjunction with other sources of treatment like GPs or specialist doctors.

Consequences of poor podiatry

Appropriate and regular care of the foot is an essential part of managing diabetes and preventing the disease from seriously impeding on a person’s quality of life and mobility. The condition can be extremely painful, and if left without the necessary attention, can ultimately pose a threat to a person’s life and limb.

Getting the right podiatric care from a qualified, registered professional is absolutely critical. Without any foot care, or if a diabetic is receiving poor foot care, a number of complications caused by diabetic foot will arise including damage to the foot through injury, foot ulcers, a variety of different foot infection, and Charcot joint (where a weight bearing part of the foot is drastically worn down). In many cases untreated diabetics foot will ultimately result in a need for an amputation because of the threat posed by infections of the foot.

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