People with diabetes urged to check their feet every day

by Barbara Hewitt on September 29, 2017

A survey by charity Diabetes UK found that while 79% of people know that an amputation is a major complication of diabetes, 36% did not know that foot ulcers were also a complication, which, when unhealed, are responsible for as many as four in five diabetes related amputations.

The charity is calling for people with diabetes to learn the signs of problems and get into the habit of checking their feet every day and if they have a foot infection or an ulcer to get urgent medical attention.


Diabetes UK is also calling for urgent improvements to community diabetes foot services and pointed out that nearly a quarter of hospitals in England still do not have a specialist diabetes foot care team, and the quality of community diabetes foot services across the country vary significantly.

Foot problems, such as infections or ulcers, can deteriorate quickly and with devastating consequences, so Diabetes UK wants to see people with diabetes receiving routine access to podiatrists and foot protection teams, who can assess problems early and treat them.

The number of diabetes-related amputations in England is now at an all-time high, with more than 8,500 procedures being carried out each year. This equates to 23 minor and major amputations per day, or more than 160 a week.

The charity also pointed out that an amputation can be devastating to a person’s quality of life, and can even be life threatening with up to 80% of people with diabetes dying within five years following surgery.

‘Diabetes related amputations devastate lives. While it’s positive that the majority of people are aware that amputation is a complication of diabetes, it’s very worrying that so many don’t know the dangers posed by foot ulcers,’ said Dan Howarth, head of care at Diabetes UK.

‘That’s why it’s essential that people living with diabetes know how to look after their feet, and that they check them daily. It’s also crucial that they know to seek urgent medical attention if they notice any problems with their feet. A matter of hours can make the difference between losing and keeping a limb,’ he explained.

‘With the right support, four out of five amputations are preventable. But the quality and availability of services still varies significantly across England. We want to see greater commitment from Government to improving diabetes foot services, ensuring routine, high-quality care to those who need it, regardless of where they live,’ he added.

Ben Harris, 42, from Berkshire, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when he was just 18 and had his right leg amputated in 2012 aged 36, after three years of treatment for an ulcer that had formed on the joint of his big toe. Ben is also due to have his left leg amputated due to osteomyelitis and ulcers, and has also suffered sight loss due to diabetic retinopathy.

‘I was absolutely devastated when I was told that my right leg had to be amputated below the knee. It was horrible, nothing can prepare you for it. I cried and I was scared, I’m not going to deny it. But, I was more scared about the impact it would have on my finances. I went from earning £45,000 a year to nothing. I had no financial support, no help and hardly any savings,’ he said.

‘There needs to be more information for young people with diabetes about the risks of diabetes complications. I was never told about the importance of foot care or the very real possibility of amputations,’ he explained.

‘Now five years on I’ve been able to turn my life around with the support of my wife, who cared for me during my rehabilitation, and my young son and the charity SportsAble. I’ve now been told that my left leg will have to be amputated, which is obviously hugely disappointing, but I’m in a much stronger place to deal with it this time round,’ he added.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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