Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Chairman of Internal Medicine, Professor Abdul-Badi Abou-Samra is advising diabetics to ensure they take care of their feet, stating that practicing proper foot care is a crucial part of successful diabetes management.
Each patient being treated for diabetes at HMC is scheduled for a complete foot exam at least once a year, and more frequently if the patient is experiencing any foot problems. During checkups, patients are educated about how to examine their own feet.
“Members of our specialist multidisciplinary care team instruct patients on the importance of checking their feet every day. Examining bare feet for red spots, cuts, swelling and blisters is an important part of successful diabetes management. If a patient is unable to see the bottoms of their own feet, they are instructed to use a mirror or to ask someone for help,” said Professor Abou-Samra.
Diabetes can reduce blood supply to the feet and cause a loss of sensation known as peripheral neuropathy. This can mean foot injuries do not heal well, and that diabetics may not notice if their foot is sore or injured. Diabetics are also at an increased risk for poor circulation and poor healing of foot ulcers, both conditions that contribute to high amputation rates in people with diabetes.
“Patients who are deemed to be at high risk for recurrent ulceration or other foot injuries are scheduled for a more extensive evaluation. Many of these patients are also provided with therapeutic shoes that are specially designed to prevent complications, such as strain and calluses,” said Professor Abou-Samra.
Foot exams test for loss of feeling by checking touch, temperature, pain and other sensations. Patients who show signs of peripheral neuropathy are immediately referred to a podiatrist, specialist podiatry nurse or podiatry technician for a more comprehensive examination.
Professor Abou-Samra mentioned that “For diabetics, careful examination of the feet, at least once a day, is essential. Diabetic neuropathy doesn’t emerge overnight. It usually develops slowly and worsens over time.”
“Early identification of foot problems and early intervention to prevent problems from worsening can avert many amputations. Amputation is always the last resort. Good foot care, which includes daily self examinations, is an essential part of diabetes management,” he noted.
Professor Abou-Samra added that “Pain is not a reliable symptom in patients with diabetes, as many lose their sensation to pain and could have advanced foot lesion without knowing about it.”
Individuals with diabetes are also advised to keep their feet clean and free from infection, wear shoes that fit well, avoid walking barefoot and most importantly to seek treatment from their physician or podiatrist if foot blisters or injuries do not heal quickly. Professor Abou-Samra stressed the importance of treating ulcers urgently, within 24 hours.
“If you have diabetes, it is also important to try to stop smoking. Smoking impairs the blood circulation, particularly in people with diabetes. It can seriously worsen foot and leg problems,” he said.