Diabetes, or Diabetes Mellitus to give it its proper name is a chronic disease that affects millions of people around the world. It is classified as a set of related diseases that occur when the body cannot regulate the amount of sugar or glucose in the blood stream. Glucose or sugar provides the blood with energy. It is produced by the liver from the food that we eat.

For those with a healthy system, the blood glucose level is regulated by several hormones, one of which is insulin. This essential chemical allows glucose to move from the blood to the liver, muscle and fat tissue, providing energy for the body. Insulin is produced by the pancreas, which also secretes enzymes important for proper digestion.

Diabetes is the resulting condition when the body does not produce adequate amounts of insulin properly in the system. The glucose therefore cannot move into the cells and convert into energy, but rather builds up in the bloodstream. This build-up harms both the cells seeking fuel as well as the organs and tissues exposed to the higher glucose levels.

Diabetes can be divided into two types:

Type 1 Diabetes

In this type the body stops producing insulin or produces so little that the body cannot regulate its blood sugar level on its own. This type is most commonly identified during childhood or in young adults and was previously known as 'juvenile diabetes'. Type 1 diabetes can occur in adults and older persons as well. Type 1 diabetes normally requires daily insulin treatments to stay healthy.

Type 2 Diabetes

In this type, the pancreas secretes insulin as expected and sometimes at the proper levels, but the body cannot process the insulin completely. The body tries to overcome the rejection by producing more insulin. This is commonly referred to as 'insulin resistance' and is normally recognised in adulthood. Type 2 diabetes is controlled with proper diet, weight loss if required and oral medications.

Diabetes can lead to poor blood supply, loss of sensitivity (peripheral neuropathy) and greater risk of infection to the feet. It is therefore more important, if you have diabetes to look after your feet.

In order to look after your feet properly there are a number of tips for you to follow.
  • Wash feet daily with warm water and a mild soap.
  • Dry carefully especially between the toes.
  • Change hosiery daily, ensure fitting is of the right size and try to wear hosiery made of natural fibres like cotton or wool.
  • Apply a foot moisturiser daily to prevent the skin from cracking. Do not apply between the toes.
  • If the skin is moist between the toes, wipe with surgical spirit.
  • Examine your feet daily for cuts, breaks, grazes or blisters. Also check for areas of swelling, sudden colour changes and any discharge from cuts or beneath corns or nails.
    If you are unable to see well or have limited movement, ask a friend or family member to do this for you.
Footwear is very important. Poorly fitting shoes are a common cause of foot problems in diabetic people.

  • Have your feet measured and check that the shoe fits well.
  • New shoes should be comfortable at the outset and should not need a 'breaking-in' period.
  • Avoid wearing shoes with high heels, pointed toes or those that are tight around the toes. These can apply too much pressure on parts of the foot and can contribute to ulcers.
  • Check the inside of your shoes daily for sharp objects, cracks, stones etc which may irritate the skin.
  • Never use sharp instruments on your feet.Never use sharp instruments on your feet.
  • Never use corn plasters or lotions as they contain acids which can be dangerous.
  • Avoid direct heat or hot water bottles-loss of sensation and temperature sensitivity make these dangerous.
  • Do not cut your nails too short or down the side or edge of the nail.
  • Avoid walking barefoot.

    Diabetes can affect the rate of healing and so breaks in the skin may take longer to heal.
    Diabetic persons should consult a registered Chiropodist for any foot abnormalities and routine care.