Save A Limb From Diabetes

Neglecting your self-care routine can have dangerous consequences

In Sri Lanka, one in 10 adults suffer from diabetes and 50 percent of all amputations in hospitals result from diabetes-related complications. Such loss of limbs, and sometimes even life, is usually the result of complacency – the failure to stick to the small lifestyle changes that would have prevented diabetes from spiraling out of control.  

Statistics show that when neglected, diabetes can be deadly. Often, something as small as a tiny blister on a foot can get infected, swell, ulcerate, and rot. The wound fails to heal, gangrene sets in, resulting in amputation. Sometimes, sepsis, a potentially fatal full-body infection, occurs.  

Acute diabetic foot complications also result in lengthier hospital stays and escalating hospital bills, as well as the mental and emotional trauma for the patient and their loved ones. 

These unfortunate consequences can be avoided by following a simple, daily regimen of careful skincare, frequent inspection of the feet, and the use of special footwear recommended by medical professionals. Though small, these steps require strict discipline and commitment from both the patient and caregiver. Adherence to a rigid meal plan, daily exercise, and a thorough self-care regimen can make the difference between life and death.


What happens when diabetic feet are neglected

  • Diabetic neuropathy – Nerve damage results in the loss of feeling in the lower limbs, and a tendency to develop deformities such as bunions or hammertoes. Monofilament or sensitometer tests are carried out to gauge sensory ability. 

  • Ischemia – Clogged arteries that result in thin, hairless skin, white or bluish nail beds, and dark red or purple feet. An Ankle Brachial Index (ABI) test is used to measure foot pulse. 

  • Swelling – A predisposition to foot ulcers that can slow down healing capabilities.

  • Corns and calluses – Deep focussed lesions of hardened skin or unusual thickening of areas of the skin on the soles are cause for immediate concern and medication.

  • Skin breakdown and infection – With enough pressure, skin on the feet may break open, exposing the foot to a serious infection that may even reach the bone.

  • Necrosis – Skin deprived of blood blackens and dies, reaching a critical stage called gangrene.

  • Amputation – Surgical removal of the foot to prevent further complications such as sepsis.


Make regular contact with your GP

Your GP will help you to better understanding what you should do and what you should avoid doing to manage diabetes. For this reason, frequency of contact and the quality of your relationship with your GP is very important. Regular monitoring of a patient’s condition, combined with the therapeutic benefits of having regular, impartial, and informed discussions about your condition will help you to stay committed to the positive lifestyle changes you have made. 

Healthy Life Clinic’s Smart D programme is a unique example of this principle in practice, providing patients with a year-long targeted diabetic healthcare plan that includes a simple but comprehensive healthcare regimen, pre-booked doctor consultations, regular laboratory tests, and practical diabetic lifestyle and self-care coaching from a panel of experienced medical professionals. 



Wear diabetic footwear

Diabetic feet are very sensitive. For this reason, use covered, supported footwear with soft, contoured insoles that match foot arches. Your shoes should be wide and not tight-fitting, with highly adjustable settings like velcro or lace. Avoid heels that add unwanted pressure to parts of the foot.

Choose leather or suede over tight plastic shoes which gather moisture in the creases of the skin creating breeding grounds for bacteria. Avoid going barefoot and always choose sandals over flip-flops. Footwear made especially for diabetes patients cover all these requirements and are available at diabetes clinics.

In addition, check your feet daily for signs of injury and changes in temperature. Keep them neat, clean, and dry. Avoid applying skincare creams especially between toes. Immediately wash any minor injury with soap and water, and apply an antibiotic cream.

Learn to listen to your body

Listening to your feet is as important as listening to the body’s other needs, such as hunger, thirst, pain, or sleep. If you feel tingling pins and needles or a certain numbness or heaviness in your feet when walking, stabbing pain, or persistent restlessness in the feet or legs, consult a doctor. These are all tell-tale signs of diabetic feet.

In fact, take all the signs your body gives you seriously. It is your body’s way of asking for help and so you owe it to yourself to listen. Stay armed with the mantra: “No wound or alarm is small enough to avoid a visit to the doctor.”


Adapted from an article that appeared in Ada DeranaSalt.lkLanka Business News and Ceylon Business Reporter


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