Lower limb amputation is one of the preventable potential complications of long term poorly controlled diabetes. However, Cancer Ireland has stated that under-resourced podiatry services in Ireland mean that there is inadequate specialised early screening.
Latest data has shown that 2,820 (up from 2,400 in 2015) people were hospitalised in 2016 due to diabetes-related foot care complications, with 511 (up from 451 in 2015) of those requiring lower limb amputation surgery.
Approximately 1,030 of these patients were aged under 65 years and of working age.
Patients are advised to frequently check their feet, as long-term high blood glucose levels may make feet susceptible to injury and infection because the protective sensation in the toes or feet, the “pain alarm system” may slowly disappear.
Dr Ronan Canavan, Consultant Endocrinologist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin said: “The HSE provided no extra podiatry posts in 2017 yet we are seeing year on year increases in the number of people requiring in hospital treatment for diabetes related foot complications and lower limb loss at huge cost to the exchequer.
“Therefore, I want to encourage people with diabetes to take care of their feet with daily examination and be on the lookout for small cuts, changes in skin colour and temperature, red areas and swelling”.
He continued: “They also have to check they have continuing sensation in their feet and be alert to signs such as prickly pain in the feet, numbness and peculiar sensations such as a feeling of walking on cotton or of wearing tight socks.
“This is important as without a pain alarm system, injuries and poor fitting shoes may go unnoticed. Where people do find problems with their feet they should immediately seek medical advice”.
The estimated in-patient hospital cost to treating 2,820 people with diabetes related foot complications in 2016 is at least €84m. Between them, these patients spent a total of 32,490 days in hospital for treatment.
Roisin Shortall TD commented that these figures were “frightening”. She stated: “I simply cannot understand why the Government would decide not to provide funding for more podiatry posts nationwide and I would urge them to make funding available for at least a further 20 posts in the upcoming budget”.
People with diabetes should have their feet examined at least annually by a healthcare professional who can examine their feet for sensation and abrasions.