Once again, it’s November 14: World Diabetes Day. Smack in the middle of Diabetes awareness month, this day is typically a time to launch new weapons in the battle against this epidemic disease. And this year is no exception: in honor of World Diabetes Day 2019, researchers have launched a new, global project to map which groups are most affected by diabetic foot complications around the world.
How Diabetes Complications Affect Your Feet
When your blood sugar level rises, you may sustain damage to your nerve endings (peripheral neuropathy.) Your blood circulation may also be compromised, meaning less oxygen-rich blood reaches extremities like your feet and toes. In combination, these two complications can spell big trouble: neuropathy reduces sensation in your feet. Poor circulation limits your body’s ability to heal nicks, cuts and scrapes on your feet.
So, if you sustain even a minor injury on your foot—even just a blister—you may not realize you have a problem. And that problem can become irritated and infected, developing into an open wound (ulcer) that is now difficult to heal. Suddenly, you’re facing a situation where your foot is infected; now, if that infection can’t be resolved, it could even reach your foot bone, ultimately leading to a necessary amputation!
While scary complications like this can be avoided, they are still, unfortunately, quite common. For that reason, identifying and discussing the global problem of diabetic complications is the focus of this year’s World Diabetes Day.
Mapping Diabetic Complications Across the World
The new mapping project is being led by Professor Nachiappan Chockalingam, Director of the Centre for Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Technologies at Staffordshire University. The goal of the project is to give healthcare providers and patients a true picture of the problems, especially lower limb amputations, that can be caused by diabetes.
At the launch, Professor Chockalingam said: "Diabetes is a growing global health problem and diabetic foot disease is one of the most expensive complications of diabetes leading to significant morbidity and mortality in the adult population. Whilst there is substantial information on the global burden of diabetes, there is little information relating to the complications resulting from diabetes and no specific data on amputations or mobility related assistive devices."
Professor Chockalingam also explained that her team would be working with World Health Organization (WHO) collaborating centers for diabetes in Japan and India to collect the new information by spring of next year. They will also work with teams in Malta, Tanzania, Thailand and Aruba.
This global aspect is especially important, he explained, because: "Most of current scientific and clinical information on diabetic foot is based on data from the Western world. Ultimately we aim to capture structured information from the developing and under-developed regions of the world…This, in addition to helping to reduce the complications of the disease, will support practitioners to understand the assistive technology needs of these patients".
Past Innovations from World Diabetes Day
This year is not the first time we’ve seen new diabetic care initiatives launch on November 14. One of my favorite launches from years past came from skincare company Marble Hill, who launched the world’s first online foot checker for people with diabetes on this very day six years ago.
As any of you who have diabetes know, foot care is very important—many diabetics lose feeling in their feet due to neuropathy and can let an injury get infected without regular self-foot checks.
Knowing how important regular foot exams are, Dr. Maria McGee, Marble Hill’s founder, created a Twitter-based service to give people the nudge they need to examine their feet every day. Operating under the handle @dailyfootcheck, the service also offers followers advice on long-term foot care.
When you sign on to follow the app, you start receiving daily foot-check reminders that also come with advice on what you should be looking for when doing your own exams.
I was then and still am so excited about this service. In my Houston podiatrist office, I see my diabetic patients for foot checkups regularly, but I certainly can’t see everyone every day. We have to work together to make sure that a foot wound doesn’t turn into an ulcer in between office visits; since I can’t call you every day and remind you, a service like @dailyfootcheck is a great support tool in the fight for diabetic foot health.
So to all my diabetic patients out there, sign up for the service (it’s free, so you have nothing to lose) and check your feet every day. You’ll be taking a proactive step towards foot health that will keep you healthy in between visits to Tanglewood Foot Specialists. Of course, if you notice a foot problem, contact Houston podiatrist Dr. Andrew Schneider for an immediate appointment.