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Your annual diabetes foot check

Everyone with diabetes should have an annual foot check.

Your foot check is part of your annual review, which means you should have it as part of your diabetes care and it's free on the NHS. This is because you’re more likely to have serious foot problems and these can lead to amputations.

If you live in Scotland, you might have your foot check (also called a foot screening) less often, depending on your risk level for developing a serious foot problem. 

Foot checks are happening differently in different areas at the moment because of the coronavirus pandemic. But if you develop a problem with your feet, it's really important to speak to your care team right away - don't delay. We've got lots of information on what care you can expect during the pandemic

Diabetes leads to 169 amputations a week.

That's 24 amputations a day and 1 amputation every hour. Going to your foot checks and knowing the signs to look out for could prevent this from happening.

In most cases, serious foot problems can be prevented. You can do this by checking your feet yourself every day, and having a foot check at least once a year that’s arranged by your GP practice. Everyone with diabetes should have an annual foot check, so make sure you get yours – even if you’ve been referred to a foot specialist or clinic. They will check your feet but also tell you your level of risk of foot problems.

What happens at your foot check

It will usually be at your GP surgery as part of your annual diabetes checks

You’ll need to take off any dressings and footwear, including socks and tights. Your feet will be examined. Numbness or changes in sensation (also known as neuropathy) will be tested with a special piece of equipment. They’ll also check your shoes to make sure they’re not causing any problems.

You’ll also be asked lots of questions about your feet and how you manage your diabetes. Such as: 

  • Have you had any problems or noticed any changes like cuts, blisters, broken skin, corns?
  • Have you ever had any foot problems or wounds?
  • Have you had any pain or discomfort?
  • How often do you check your feet?
  • Do you have any cramp-like pains when walking?
  • How well are you managing your diabetes?

To help you make the most of your foot check, we've got a guide to taking care of your feet when you have diabetes that you can download (PDF, 1.3MB). You can also order a printed version for free from our shop.  

Know your risk of a foot problem

Your healthcare team will tell you your results and how much you're at risk of a foot problem. These include:

  • Low – no risk, or a callus without any other problem.
  • Moderate – one sign of a foot problem, such as a loss of sensation or a change in foot shape.
  • High – more than one sign of a foot problem, or a previous ulcer or amputation.

You might also hear your healthcare professional say your level of foot problem is active. This means you have highly serious foot complications, such as a spreading infection or ulcer and you should be having treatment for it already.

You’ll get information that explains what your level of risk means, and be told what you need to do next. If your feet are moderate or high, you’ll be referred to the foot protection team where you'll see a foot specialist.

If you live in Scotland 

If you live in Scotland, you might have your foot check less often than every year, depending on your level of risk. This is based on the latest research evidence and is safe.  

If your healthcare professional says your risk level is: 

  • Low, your foot check will now happen every other year as it’s not likely you will develop foot problems. But if you notice any changes in your feet, like changes in colour, swelling or loss of feeling, you should speak with your diabetes care team straight away.
  • Moderate, you will be referred to a podiatrist. If the podiatrist doesn’t think you need more regular checks, you will keep having a foot check every year. If you need to have more monitoring, the podiatrist will discuss a plan with you and you'll keep having an annual foot check.
  • High, the podiatrist will now be in charge of your footcare. The podiatrist will discuss a plan with you to help you take care of your feet. The plan will be reviewed at least once a year and you might be referred to other specialists. This is to help stop you from getting a foot ulcer that could lead to an amputation. 
  • In remission, this means that you have had a foot ulcer, amputation or other foot problem in the past. The podiatrist will discuss a plan with you which will be reviewed at least once a year. You might be referred to other specialists. This is to help stop you from having any more complications with your feet.

Seeing a foot specialist (a podiatrist)

Ask your foot specialist questions. The more you know, the more you can keep an eye on any changes in your feet.

 

It’s important you’re told how to look after your feet at home too – according to your level of risk. This should include a management or treatment plan. If you don’t get it, ask for it. And make sure you get the details of who to contact if you have a foot problem before your next annual foot check. It’s always good to ask a healthcare professional if you’re worried.

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