Diabetes Patients: Put your feet first

Diabetes UK has uncovered that the hundreds of thousands in the UK suffering from diabetes are not having regular check ups on their feet. The organization says this raises the risk of amputations. 

Using NHS data, the charity says an estimated 414,784 people are skipping annual foot checks. This equates to 27.7% of people with type 1 diabetes and 13.3% of those with type 2 diabetes, they say.


Putting Feet First

Diabetes UK is currently running a campaign called Putting Feet First that aims to raise awareness about the importance of yearly foot checks if you have diabetes.

These checks are important because poor control of blood glucose levels can lead to nerve damage, poor circulation and reduced feeling in the feet and legs. This can lead to problems such as foot ulcers that can result in amputations.

According to Diabetes UK, more than 100 people have diabetes-related amputations each week in the UK – 80% of which might have been prevented if the problems had been diagnosed early enough.

"My hope now is that what happened to me will raise awareness of the importance of looking after your feet when you have diabetes," said former captain of football team Tottenham Hotspur, Gary Mabbutt who is helping to lead the campaign. 

He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 17, and recently described how he feared losing his left leg when he experienced a 'foot attack' in which blood stopped flowing to his limb.

Good foot care is important, espcially in those suffering from diabetes. Now that foot care services are improves, people should know what to expect when they receive their foot checks.

Diabetes Patients Foot Care in the US 

30 million Americans suffer from diabetes with about 73,000 amputations each year. In the U.S., the American Diabetes Association urges patients to inspect their feet every day and seek early treatment if their feet suffer from an injury. The Association says all healthcare providers should perform an annual foot checkup. Here is a list of tips they put together, diabetes patients can do on their own to ensure healthy feet:

  • Check your feet every day. Look at your bare feet for red spots, cuts, swelling, and blisters. If you cannot see the bottoms of your feet, use a mirror or ask someone for help.
  • Be more active. Plan your physical activity program with your health team.
  • Ask your doctor about Medicare coverage for special shoes.
  • Wash your feet every day. Dry them carefully, especially between the toes.
  • Keep your skin soft and smooth. Rub a thin coat of skin lotion over the tops and bottoms of your feet, but not between your toes. 
  • Trim your toenails straight across and file the edges with an emery board or nail file.
  • Wear shoes and socks at all times. Never walk barefoot. Wear comfortable shoes that fit well and protect your feet. Check inside your shoes before wearing them. Make sure the lining is smooth and there are no objects inside.
  • Protect your feet from hot and cold. Wear shoes at the beach or on hot pavement. Don't put your feet into hot water. Test water before putting your feet in it just as you would before bathing a baby. Never use hot water bottles, heating pads, or electric blankets. You can burn your feet without realizing it.
  • Keep the blood flowing to your feet. Put your feet up when sitting. Wiggle your toes and move your ankles up and down for 5 minutes, two (2) or three (3) times a day. Don't cross your legs for long periods of time. Don't smoke.
  • Get started now. Begin taking good care of your feet today.  Set a time every day to check your feet.

High cost in the UK

Up to 80% of people with diabetes who have amputations die within 5 years of the surgery, according to the charity which says that foot ulcers and amputations account for around £1 out of every £150 the NHS spends each year.

Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, says in a statement: "We know that good diabetes care can dramatically reduce the risk of amputation. The foot check people should get at least once a year is an essential part of this and so it is worrying that more than 400,000 people with diabetes are still not getting one.

"Given the high levels of preventable diabetes-related amputations, it is unacceptable that the proportion of people getting the check has hardly changed over recent years. It is one of the reasons so many people with diabetes are forced to endure an amputation and we urgently need to get to a point where everyone with the condition is getting their annual foot check.

"But having a check is not enough on its own. When people do get foot checks, we know from the experiences people with diabetes share with us that they are often not thorough enough, with some people not even being asked to remove their shoes or socks. This is why people need to download the 'What To Expect At Your Annual Foot Check' leaflet and take it along to their foot checks so that they can be confident they are receiving the necessary level of good care, are being advised what their risk is and understand how to prevent problems."