Damage to the blood vessels, nerves and skin of the feet is very common in diabetes. Often the person is not able to see or feel that they have damage. In some cases, this is because the person has become too overweight or disabled to be able to see their feet. They are therefore not able to check for sores.
In many other cases, the nerves are so damaged that the person with diabetes is not able to feel injuries that occur when they knock into things. These injuries heal slowly (because blood vessels are damaged) and infection will often also set in. Because there is not enough blood cells to fight the infecting bacteria or viruses in the foot, if the foot is cut or injured, it will most likely develop infections.
It is vital that a person with diabetes takes proper care of their feet and gets them checked by their doctor. The health professional who looks after the feet of people with diabetes is called a podiatrist.
If you are caring for a person with diabetes, encourage them to see a podiatrist to find out how to check and look after their feet. People with diabetes need to learn how to wash and dry the foot carefully, how to clean and cut their toe nails properly and what shoes are the best to wear.
- Rizwana Kousar 2010. What is Diabetes? Community Education Series, Melbourne. © Australian Community Centre for Diabetes (ACCD)