Diabetes is a condition where the amount of glucose in your blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly. This is because your pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin, or not enough insulin, to help glucose enter your body’s cells – or the insulin that is produced does not work properly (known as insulin resistance).
- Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas that allows glucose to enter the body’s cells, where it is used as fuel for energy. It is vital for life.
- Glucose comes from digesting carbohydrate and is also produced by the liver.
- If you have diabetes, your body cannot make proper use of this glucose so it builds up in the blood and can’t be used as fuel.
- There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes
In this form the body fails to produce insulin. The hormones help glucose to enter cells where it provides the body with energy. Without insulin, the sugar level in the blood rises to much higher levels than would be found in a normal individual. This type usually affects younger people, appearing before the age of 40, and is treated by insulin injections.
Type 2 Diabetes
In this form, the body mostly continues to produce insulin. However, either not enough is made or the insulin produced is not recognised by the body and so cannot produce its effect. The biggest cause of this ‘insulin resistance’ is obesity, therefore overweight people are more at risk of developing type II. This type usually affects older people, appearing after the age of 40. However, the recent rising trends in childhood obesity has seen children as young as 5 years old being diagnosed with the condition. Type 2 diabetes accounts for between 85 and 95 per cent of all people with diabetes and is treated with a healthy diet and increased physical activity. In addition to this, medication and/or insulin are often required.
How Does Diabetes Affect the Feet?
- Circulation can be affected by diabetes and lead to reduced arterial supply to the foot. This can lead to intermittent claudication (a cramping feeling in the leg when walking), poor healing of wounds or lesions of the foot and increase the risk of infection.
- Feeling or sensation can be adversely affected by diabetes, the unstable blood sugar levels over time can lead to damage of the peripheral nerves of the feet. This leads to the experience of numbness and loss of feeling. This puts the feet more at risk of injury as the person can’t feel their feet as well. In more serious cases the foot can lose all sensation and then the feet have to be checked visually as the feeling sensation is absent.
- Wound healing can also be affected by diabetes. The unstable blood sugar levels coupled with the two factors outlined as above make wound healing slower and more at risk of complications such as infection.
Helpful Advice For People With Diabetes
Following the advice of your doctor or diabetes specialist on diet, exercise and blood sugar control will help keep the complications of diabetes to a minimum. But there are extra measures that should be recognised in caring for the diabetic foot:
- Good foot care. Wash your feet every day and dry carefully, especially between the toes. Consult a Healthcare Professional about your nail care. Some people with diabetes are fine to cut their own toe nails while others should be done by a podiatrist. Seek expert advice in this regard.
- Good footwear. Buy broad, well-fitting footwear, making sure that you have enough depth in the toe area to allow your toes to move comfortably. There should be a half-inch gap between the ends of the toes and the end of the shoe. Low heels and good fastenings, preferably lace-ups, will hold your foot securely at the heel and stop it slipping forward in the shoe. Avoid seams on sensitive areas of the foot or toes, particularly if you have neuropathy because you may not feel the damage that rubbing or irritating the feet may do.
Do I need to take care if I have diabetes?
Yes. We are aware of the problems that people with diabetes may have and so we offer footwear and socks with minimal seaming. However, not all our products may be suitable for your feet, so you need to make your own judgement or ask a medical advisor. Please run your fingers inside any item before wearing, checking for anything that may harm. After buying new footwear, wear it for 30 minutes to 1 hour at first, then inspect your feet for pressure marks or irritation. A hand mirror is useful so you can examine your whole foot. Gradually build up the wearing time. For more information visit diabetes.org.uk.
The comfort and foot health of our customers is at the forefront of everything we do. With this in mind, we approached The College of Podiatry (COP) to ask them to review our footwear range and advise on its suitability for people with diabetes. Click here to find out more about the review.
For further information on Diabetes
Tel: 0345 123 2399
Products to help with Diabetes
See the Cosyfeet collection of products designed to help with diabetes.