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Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes is a disease that is becoming more prevalent in New Zealand. It affects the way the body converts food into energy. Food is converted into glucose by a hormone called insulin that is produced by the pancreas. If you have Diabetes, your pancreas either does not produce insulin or else doesn't use insulin properly and this causes you to have high blood sugar.

In Type 1 Diabetes, the pancreas does not produce insulin to regulate the blood sugar levels so insulin needs to be injected into the body. In Type 2 Diabetes the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin or else the body's cells cannot use it. The person will need to modify their diet and sometimes will need to take tablets orally to help control blood glucose levels.

Diabetes can be caused by many factors such as family history, ethnicity, poor diet, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and inactive lifestyle. Early signs of Diabetes can include increased feel of thirst, increased need for urination, increased hunger, tiredness, increased risk of infection, slow healing time for minor scratches or sores or blurred vision.

Problems with feet and eyes are common for people with Diabetes. Foot problems can affect many parts including:

  • Nerves: burning, tingling, pins and needles, heightened sensation, numbness or loss of sensation (neuropathy)
  • Circulation: reduced circulation to feet, unable to feel pulses, calf cramping
  • Nails: become thick, can be more prone to fungal infections
  • Skin: excessive build up of hard skin, corns
  • Toes: claw toes, hammer toes
  • Ulcers: longstanding sore caused by trauma or pressure that take a very long time to heal or else never heal
  • Gangrene or amputation: if circulation is extremely bad the toes or foot can need to be removed

Regular check-ups with a podiatrist are vital for those with diabetes. It is also important to monitor and look after your feet as well. See the diabetes information sheet for more information.