1 million people at high risk of diabetic foot disease

Diabetes.co.uk | March 5, 2014.

An estimated 1 million people with diabetes across the UK are at increased risk of developing foot disease, and many of these individuals are failing to take steps to reduce this risk.

That is according to Diabetes UK, who say that up to a third of all diabetes patients in the UK are more likely to suffer an injury to a foot which has reduced feeling or reduced blood circulation (foot attack). Left untreated, such injuries can lead to a lower limb amputation.

But at its annual Diabetes Professional Conference, which kicked off today in Liverpool, the charity group warned that many of the 6,000 diabetes-related amputations that occur each year are the result of a lack of awareness of the symptoms and treatment of diabetic foot problems, as well as poor services. 

Many people are being left in the dark about what to look for and when to seek medical help, meaning those who develop foot disease often suffer in silence for months. As a result, treatment is often delayed for months, thus lowering the patient's chances of saving their foot. In addition, 15% of diabetics do not have an annual foot examination, while others get a check but are not told whether they are at high risk of foot disease.

To help improve the current situation and ultimately reduce amputation rates amongst diabetic patients, Diabetes UK is calling on healthcare professionals to ensure everyone with diabetes has their feet checked at least once a year; are informed of their risk status; and understand the importance of good foot care and the urgent need to see their GP if they have any signs of a foot attack.

Every GP surgery in the country will also be sent a newly launched patient information booklet from Diabetes UK, titled 'How to Spot a Foot Attack'. The booklet highlights the early symptoms of active foot disease (red, warm or swollen feet, cracks in the skin, discharge, etc) and includes a card reminding people at high risk of a foot attack to seek urgent medical attention if they spot any of these signs. 

Barbara Young, Diabetes UK Chief Executive, said: "All too often, people are seeing the signs of foot disease but not acting on it and potentially losing their foot as a result. The NHS needs to shift its approach to diabetic foot disease so that making people understand the importance of addressing foot problems quickly is seen as being as important as what happens once they are seen by a doctor."

She added: "We also need to see more people with diabetes getting a good quality annual foot check and more healthcare professionals taking the time to talk to these patients about their feet. For example, many people with diabetes experience loss of feeling in their foot, so it is crucial that they understand the importance of regularly checking their own feet for changes or getting a carer to do so, as they may be having a foot attack but not be experiencing any pain or discomfort."

Controlling blood sugar levels is vital for preventing foot problems and other diabetes complications, and research studies have shown that reducing HbA1c (a long-term average measure of blood glucose) by just 1% can slash the risk of amputation by some 43% in people with type 2 diabetes.

To help people achieve this, Diabetes.co.uk - Europe's largest diabetes community website - has launched a revolutionary diabetes management program for people with type 2 Diabetes who are not on insulin.

Aimed at individuals who do not have access to test strips on the NHS, the Type 2 Testing Program aims to empower individuals with type 2 diabetes to improve their glycaemic control, reduce their HbA1c and subsequent risk of complications through structured blood glucose testing.

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