According to Habershaw & Chzran (1995) “The term “diabetic” foot indicates that there are specific qualities about the feet of people with diabetes that sets this disease apart from other conditions that affect the lower extremity”. Earlier to this, in 1985. the World Health Organization (1985) has described diabetic feet by identifying the conditions affecting feet of the persons with diabetes – “Infection, ulceration and/or destruction of deep tissues associated with neurological abnormalities and various degrees of peripheral vascular disease in the lower limb”
Persons with diabetes are more prone to many adverse conditions affecting their feet including the following:
- They may feel numbness in the feet
- They may find change in shape of their feet
- Their foot sores, ulcers, or any wounds in the feet may not heal or take much longer time to heal
Certain symptoms are indicative of occurrence of problems arising on account of the diabetic foot. Some of the major symptoms are;
- Persistent pain may due to a variety of reasons - sprain, bruise, improperly fitting shoes, infections, etc.
- Swelling of the legs of feet may be a sign of the infections or inflammation.
- Localized warmth may be on account of inflammation or infection.
- Stoppage of hair growth on the lower legs and feet and/or hard shiny skin on the legs may result into problems affecting the feet.
- Any break in the skin due to injury, infection, trauma, etc. may lead to more problems and complications.
- Formation of pus in wounds in the legs and foot (or any part of the body) are signs of serious infection. Similarly bloody drainage from wounds are also a serious matter.
- Sudden numbness if new or lasting numbness in the legs and feet may be due to nerve damage.
Certain factors increase the chances of getting complications of the foot for persons with diabetes:
- Bad Footwear: Poorly fitting footwear are a very common cause of problems related to diabetic foot. Poorly fitting improper shoes may cause corns, blisters, red spots, continuous pains, etc. Abnormal foot like flat foot also require prescription shoes.
- Infections: They may also cause a number of problems. For instance, Athlete's foot (that is, skin infection in the foot caused by a fungus) or ingrown toenails (that is, a sharp corner of the toenails digging into the skin) are causes of problems related to diabetic foot.
- Poor blood circulation: Diabetes when remaining untreated or poorly treated and managed results into poor blood circulation, particularly to the lowers parts of the body including legs and foot. Such a situation may result into hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis which in turn affects blood flow to injured tissues and healing of wounds is delayed or wounds don't heal properly.
- Nerve damage: Poorly treated and/ or badly managed diabetes results into nerve damage. This complication results into many problems of the foot.
- Smoking: Tobacco smoking in any form is highly injurious and damage the small blood vessels in the feet and legs. This reduces the natural healing process of any wounds or injury.
Foot care of persons with diabetes is an important step in prevention of complications affecting foot. The steps for the same are outlined below:
- Management of diabetes
- Checking of foot every day
- Cleaning and washing the foot every day
- Keeping the skin soft and smooth
- Wearing proper socks and shoes
- Protecting foot from heat and cold
- Ensuring proper blood flow to lower areas of the body including foot
- Leading an active life
- Securing medical advice as and when required
- Wearing protective footwear on the beach and other rough surfaces