A Matter of Life and Limb

Readers of our blogs often compliment the fact that we provide helpful health facts with a bit of humour. However, there are some topics where the reality is anything but funny.

Such is the case with a statistic released by Health Canada late last month that there are over 2,000 diabetes-related lower-limb amputations in this country every year. And, with diabetes at epidemic proportions, that number is expected to increase.

Sadly, the vast majority of these amputations are preventable – even in cases where active wounds and skin ulcers develop. This is why if you have diabetes it’s extremely important to see your chiropodist regularly (and follow his or her advice!). He or she has the expertise to help prevent foot and lower-limb problems from developing as well as the skills to treat them when they do.

Meantime, there are a few tips that people with diabetes can follow on their own to help keep their feet healthy:

1. Never go barefoot, even indoors. Have an indoor pair of shoes or slippers. Even the smallest cuts can result in serious wounds and infections for people with diabetes. Because many diabetics also suffer from nerve damage, they may not feel the pain of a cut or blister and so it can go undetected until more serious problems develop.

2. Keep your feet warm and dry. Make sure to wear a good pair of warm, water-repellant, boots or footwear during the cooler months. Nerve problems can cause the cold and frost-bite to go undetected, and circulatory issues that are also common in diabetics can cause feet to get cold more easily.

3. Inspect your feet daily for signs of bruising or discolouration, cuts or abrasions that don’t heal, and dry or cracking skin. See your chiropodist right away if you find any of these things.

4. Moisturize your feet using a high-quality emollient. Your chiropodist can recommend the best moisturizers, since the skin on your feet is the thickest anywhere on the body. It’s important, however, not to rub the cream between the toes, since this can trap moisture and cause the skin to break down.

The cause of many needless diabetic amputations is from a condition known as “ICHTM Syndrome,” otherwise known as “It Can’t Happen To Me.” However, by actively taking precautions and seeing your chiropodist, people with diabetes can help to avoid becoming another statistic.