A person with diabetes is 22 times more likely to undergo a lower limb amputation compared to a person without the condition, Diabetes Ireland has warned.
The national charity is urging all adults who have had diabetes for more than five years, to undergo a full foot assessment by a podiatrist or other relevant healthcare professional at least once a year.
The call comes in the wake of new figures which show that diabetes-related amputations are continuing to rise every year.
Lower limb amputation is a potential complication of long-term poorly controlled diabetes, however, it is preventable.
Long-term high blood glucose levels can lead to the protective sensations in the toes or feet - the ‘pain alarm system' - slowly disappearing. This makes the feet more susceptible to injury and infection.
The latest figures available on amputation show that in 2017, 547 people with diabetes underwent a lower limb amputation - this accounts for 63% of all lower limb amputations carried out in Ireland during that year.
It also represents a steady increase in amputations in recent years. In 2016, 511 people with diabetes underwent a lower limb amputation. In 2015, this figure was 451, while in 2014, it was 443.
Meanwhile, a further 2,081 people with diabetes were hospitalised for foot ulceration treatment in 2017, with each patient spending an average of 10 days in hospital.
In light of these numbers, Diabetes Ireland is highlighting the importance of undergoing a foot assessment, which will identify any problems and allow for early treatment. This will prevent more serious problems from developing later on.
The charity also recommends that people with diabetes should examine their own feet on a daily basis, looking out for small cuts, changes in skin colour or temperature, red areas and swelling.
People should also check that they have continuing sensation in their feet and be aware of signs such as numbness, prickly feet and peculiar sensations, such as a feeling of walking on cotton or of wearing tight socks. This may indicate that a person's ‘pain alarm system' is not working, increasing the risk that injuries and poor fitting shoes will go unnoticed.
Diabetes Ireland offers preventative footcare services in its Dublin and Cork Care Centres. These provide access to a high-quality podiatry service, which includes a full diabetic foot screen and assessment, foot and nail care treatment, callus and corn removal and a footwear assessment.
The Cork Care Centre now has over 1,000 people attending its footcare service and due to high demand, it has recently appointed a second podiatrist.
Meanwhile, some 3,000 people attend the footcare service at the Dublin Care Centre
"I cannot stress enough how important it is for people with diabetes to have their feet checked at least annually and avoid the serious foot problems that could occur. I would encourage all people with diabetes to act now, don't delay," commented Dr Anna Clarke, Diabetes Ireland's health promotion and research manager.
To book an appointment at the Dublin Care Centre, call (01) 842 8118. To book an appointment at the Cork Care Centre, call (021) 427 4229.
More information on how to look after your feet is also available here