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What is Diabetes and how does it affect my feet?

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic health condition in Australia with roughly 311 people being diagnosed DAILY, that's one person every 5 minutes!

Diabetes is the epidemic of the 21st century and the biggest challenge confronting Australia’s health system. That's why during National Diabetes Week we are talking all things Diabetes, how it affects your foot health and why you should see a Podiatrist!

One in every four hospital beds in Australia is taken by a diabetes related condition.

What it Diabetes ?

Diabetes occurs when there’s too much glucose in your blood. This happens when your body cannot produce enough insulin, or use it properly. The level of glucose in the blood is normally controlled by a hormone called insulin which is made by the pancreas. Insulin acts as a key to unlock cells in the body and allow glucose to enter. Only then can it be used as a source of energy for our bodies.

Diabetes develops when glucose cannot enter the body’s cells, preventing it from being used for energy.

I've heard there are different types?!

Yes, there are 3 main types of Diabetes!


  1. Usually starts in children and young people under the age of 30 - although it can occur at any age.

  2. The person's own immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin

  3. Cannot make insulin and need to have insulin injections right from the start

  4. Cannot be prevented or cured


  1. Usually develops in older people (although more and more children and teens are being diagnosed)

  2. Some insulin is still produced but it does not work properly – known as insulin resistance

  3. Managed by diet and exercise, and some people may need tablets or insulin as diabetes progresses

  4. Can be prevented or delayed with regular exercise, healthy eating, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM):

  1. Occurs during pregnancy

  2. The pregnancy hormones block the action of insulin- leading to insulin resistance and high blood glucose levels.

  3. Usually occurs around the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy

  4. Managed by diet and lifestyle and sometimes require oral medication or insulin to maintain blood glucose levels within their target ranges

  5. Can not always be prevented

  6. Indicates an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future

Why should I see a Podiatrist?!

High blood glucose levels or ‘hyperglycaemia’ occurs when diabetes is not well managed. Serious damage occurs to the nerves, brain, blood vessels, and organs in the body when blood glucose levels are repeatedly high.

Peripheral Neuropathy (Nerve Damage)

  1. Numbness

  2. Tingling

  3. Burning in feet and or legs

Leading to an increase risk of poor detection of injury. Without the gift of pain small injuries can develop into ulcerations which can then become infected and cause limb threatening infections and possibly result in lower limb amputations.

Poor Blood Supply

  1. Sharp leg cramps after walking short distances or up stairs

  2. Cramps in the feet and legs even at rest (often in the early hours of the morning)

  3. Feet feeling cold

  4. Feet looking a reddish-blue colour

  5. Cuts which are slow to heal.

Making people with diabetes more prone to infection following any injury that breaks the skin due to poor healing capabilities.

Currently there are 4,400 amputations performed in Australian hospitals every year – and up to 85 per cent of these could be prevented.

How Often should I see a Podiatrist?

Podiatrist will perform a lower limb neurovascular foot assessment to determine your risk level of developing lower limb neurovascular complications.

Neuro= Nerves

Vasc= Vascular

Low risk

Low risk feet have normal sensation and good blood flow. However it is important to know that low risk feet can become high risk feet without symptoms, so regular checks are still as important.

Annual Diabetes Foot Assessment

High risk

People who have had a foot ulcer or amputation in the past have a high risk of developing future complications. Feet with calluses or deformities like claw toes also have increased risk if reduced sensation and/or decreased blood flow are also present.

Diabetes Foot Assessment 3 – 6 months at minimum

Dependent on your foot health and your ability to care for your feet you also may require 6-8 weekly appointments for general skin and nail care review.

All of our podiatrists' are trained professionally to perform neurovascular assessments and ongoing Diabetes management and care to help you minimise your risk of developing PREVENTABLE lower limb neurovascular complications.


- Contact Us: (08) 7081 9805


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