The Importance of Foot Inspections for Diabetic Neuropathy

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National Foot Week

National Feet Week is a crucial time to raise awareness of the major role foot health plays in our overall wellbeing. For people living with diabetic neuropathy, this awareness takes on an even greater significance.

What is Diabetic Neuropathy?

Diabetic neuropathy and diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain (DPNP) are common long-term complications for people with diabetes. They can cause pain, numbness, sensitivity, and unpleasant sensations in the affected areas. These symptoms can affect people’s ability to participate in their usual activities, including work, hobbies, and sleep.

It’s estimated that around half of people living with diabetes, both type one and type two, will develop diabetic neuropathy1. Diabetic neuropathy is a consequence of prolonged elevated blood sugar levels, leading to nerve damage.

This damage can manifest in various ways, including tingling sensations, pain, and numbness, predominantly in the hands and feet. As a result, foot inspections become an indispensable part of managing this condition.

Why Are Foot Inspections Important?

Foot inspections may sound mundane, but for those with diabetic neuropathy, they are a frontline defence against serious complications such as foot ulcers, infections, and even amputations. Here’s why they’re so important:

  1. Detecting Issues Early – Diabetic neuropathy can dull sensation in the feet, making it difficult for individuals to notice injuries, cuts, or blisters. Regular foot inspections, both at home and with a podiatrist, enable early detection of these issues before they escalate into something more serious, such as requiring an amputation. It’s estimated that diabetes is the cause for around 180 amputations every week in the UK2. By catching problems early, individuals can seek prompt medical attention and prevent complications.
  2. Preventing Infections – Minor cuts or blisters that go unnoticed can quickly become infected, especially in individuals with compromised immune systems due to diabetes. Medics estimate that there is sadly almost a one in six mortality rate for those who develop a diabetic foot infection within one year3. Inspecting the feet regularly allows individuals to identify and treat these minor injuries promptly, reducing the risk of infection and subsequent septicaemia.
  3. Monitoring Overall Foot Health – A comprehensive foot inspection involves more than just looking for cuts or blisters; it also includes checking for changes in skin colour or temperature, assessing the condition of nails, and examining the overall structure of the feet. It’s estimated that around 1/3 of patients with diabetic neuropathy will develop a fungal toenail infection4. These observations can provide valuable insights into the individual’s foot health and alert them to any potential problems.
  4. Promoting Self-Care – Empowering individuals with diabetic neuropathy to attend regular foot inspections with a healthcare provider as well as self-inspection promotes a sense of ownership over their health. By actively participating in their care routine, individuals are more likely to adhere to other preventive measures recommended by healthcare professionals, such as wearing appropriate footwear and managing blood sugar levels. It’s estimated that around 75% of people living with diabetic neuropathy may be wearing footwear that is not suitable for them5.
  5. Enhancing Quality of Life – Foot complications can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life, leading to pain, mobility issues, and even disability. By prioritising foot inspections as part of their routine, individuals can take proactive steps to preserve their foot health and avoid the physical and emotional toll of complications.

In conclusion, foot inspections with a podiatrist are not just a simple task to check off a list, they are a vital component of self-care for individuals living with diabetic neuropathy. By incorporating regular foot inspections into their routine, individuals can take proactive steps to protect their feet, prevent complications, and ultimately, improve their overall quality of life.

Improving Quality of Life for Diabetic Neuropathy Patients

MAC Clinical Research is currently running a clinical trial for DPNP to test a potential new treatment for the condition.

To be eligible for the clinical trial you must:

  • Be aged 18 to 75.
  • Have a BMI of 18 to 40kg/m2.
  • Have a diagnosis of type I or type II diabetes.
  • Have neuropathy in both feet or both legs that has been present for six months or more and is due to diabetes.

Other eligibility criteria will apply.

If eligible, you can receive up to £1050 plus reasonable travel expenses. For more information and to register your interest, visit MAC’s diabetic neuropathy research page.

1 Current Diabetes Reports – Epidemiology of Peripheral Neuropathy and Lower Extremity Disease in Diabetes

2 Diabetes UK – Research on preventing amputations

3 Journal of Clinical Orthopaedics and Trauma – The current burden of diabetic foot disease

4 British Journal of Dermatology – Prevalence and epidemiology of toenail onychomycosis in diabetic subjects: a multicentre survey

5 Diabetes UK – If the boot fits: testing guidelines for good fitting footwear

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