Hamad Medical Corporation
An official at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is cautioning diabetics about the importance of proper foot care during the winter months, stating that cooler temperatures, poor circulation and nerve damage can be a dangerous combination.
"Feet are especially prone to infections and complications during colder weather due to poor blood circulation. Patients with diabetes are more susceptible to poor blood circulation and nerve disease in their extremities. As such, it is important they don't rely completely on their senses,” said Dr. Talal Khader Talal, Head of Podiatric Services at HMC.
Dr. Talal added: “Diabetes can cause nerve damage in the feet, known as diabetic neuropathy. Due to the numbness caused by neuropathy, diabetic patients may not feel when their feet are wet, cold, too warm or even injured. This numbness can be more pronounced during cold weather. For this reason we urge patients to inspect their feet daily, to wear appropriate footwear and to avoid using warming devices such as electric blankets, heating pads and hot water baths.”
Diabetic neuropathy is caused by damage to the small blood vessels that feed the nerves in the extremities, particularly in the legs and feet. It results in a loss of sensation and can prevent an individual from sensing cuts, blisters or abrasions on their feet.
“Diabetic neuropathy can be a debilitating disorder that occurs in half of patients with diabetes. Strict glycemic control and good daily foot care are key to preventing complications of diabetic neuropathy. Shifts in blood sugar levels can speed up nerve damage,” said Dr. Talal, adding that low impact exercise, such as daily walking, can be an important part of the treatment plan for neuropathy.
The American Diabetes Association has compiled a list of five winter diabetic foot care tips, which Dr. Talal endorses. The list includes keeping feet dry and moisturized, avoiding direct heat, wearing appropriate shoes and getting regular foot exams.
"Dampness and cold can be an enemy for diabetics and cold weather poses special challenges for people affected by neuropathy. Moisture can cause bacteria to form, which can lead to an infection and the cold can intensify neuropathy symptoms and cause further damage to already affected nerves. Patients with diabetes should change out of wet or damp socks, and towel dry their feet as soon as possible. They should also avoid warming aids such as electric blankets, heated shoe inserts and heating pads. Numbness caused by neuropathy can make it difficult to feel when the feet are too warm or even burning. As a result, second- or third-degree burns can occur,” Dr. Talal explained.
Dr. Talal added that it is important for diabetics to be vigilant about getting a periodic foot exam from their doctor. He said it is an essential preventative measure that every person with diabetes should take seriously.
Dr. Talal is Chair and Head of the Scientific Committee for the 3rd Gulf Diabetic Foot Conference, taking place in Doha from 3 to 4 March, 2017. The Conference will bring together over 500 delegates, including key opinion leaders, wound care specialists, community nurses, foot surgeons, physiotherapists and allied health staff from throughout the region. For more information on the 3rd Gulf Diabetic Foot Conference, visit https://www.hamad.qa/EN/All-Events/3-GDFC/Pages/default.aspx.