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Diabetic Foot: That Tingling Feeling

Singapore’s Prime Minister recently said that we are “almost world champions” at something. Sadly, he was referring to the nation’s health crisis of developing Diabetes.


As a foodie nation, we love our teh tarik and prata for breakfast, chicken rice for lunch, and kway teow for dinner. Delicious as these dishes may be, many Singaporeans don’t know the nutritional value of the meals and underestimate the effect they have on the body. Subsequently, such consumption habits contribute to our rising Diabetes rate.


Here are some sobering statistics

  • 1 in 10 Singaporeans already have Diabetes – that’s over 400,000 people
  • 12 to 15% of adults have prediabetes. A third of them will develop Diabetes within 8 years
  • By 2030, there could be up to 670,000 people under the age of 70 that suffer from the disease
  • There are 4 cases of Diabetes-related amputation every day in Singapore or over 1,400 people per year
  • A study done in between 2005-2014 showed that 1 in 5 diabetics died within one year of having part of their legs amputated

Diabetic cases continue to increase at an unprecedented rate in Singapore. Alarmingly, not many Singaporeans know that one of the most common problems diabetic patients face is the ‘diabetic foot’. Diabetes affects the feet in ways that can greatly decrease the quality of life for diabetics.


The good news is, problems caused by diabetic foot can be properly managed through professional care.


What is Diabetic Foot?

Diabetic Foot is a condition that affects the nerves and blood vessels of the feet. Uncontrolled blood sugar in diabetics plays a part in damaging nerves. It also indirectly increases the risk factor for atherosclerosis, a hardening of your arteries, which then leads to a lack of blood supply to your feet.


The first warning sign of Diabetic Foot can either be a tingling feeling or loss of sensation in your foot. If you experience this, you should have your foot checked. Your Podiatrist will be able to quickly identify if it’s a musculoskeletal injury, or if it is Diabetes-related. For the latter, you will be advised to get a blood test right away,” says Georgina Tay, a Podiatrist from East Coast Podiatry who commonly sees Diabetic Foot cases.


Risks from Diabetic Foot

When not properly managed, Diabetic Foot can lead to amputation. This happens most often due to Diabetic Ulcers, which are caused by wounds to the foot that go unnoticed and untreated due to a lack of feeling in the feet.


In more extreme cases, Diabetes sufferers can develop a condition called Charcot Foot, which can cause the bones of the midfoot to collapse and deform.


What treatments are available?

Diabetic shoe insoles, which can be custom made for every patient, play a big part in reducing the risk of amputation. Some are designed to help stabilise the feet, while others need to compensate for toes that have already been amputated. In other cases, an offloading boot which prevents you from putting any pressure on a foot is recommended to reduce the risk of wounds and ulcers.


“This April, a lady came to me with a wound that could have warranted amputation,” says Georgina Tay. However, proper care of the wound and consistent check-ups allowed us to close around 70% of the wound by September. This was one of our most successful cases of preventing diabetic limb amputation.


In addition to the medical treatments, diabetic patients are also advised to inspect their feet daily to check if any ulcers or wounds have developed. Regular use of moisturiser is strongly advised, as this will keep the patient’s skin hydrated. This reduces the risk of the patient’s skin breaking and prevents it from turning into a wound.


If ulcers or wounds have already developed on a patient’s foot, he or she should seek professional medical help immediately.


Healthcare professionals, such as podiatrists, are the first line of defence against Diabetic Foot. Their duties include monitoring the healing progress and working with other specialists to ensure that patients receive constant care.


The longer a Diabetic Foot remains untreated, the greater the risk of complications that might lead to amputation.