07 Dec 2015
Author/blogger Reggie Simpson
While you may think your foot pain is nothing to worry about, it may be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. Diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and peripheral arterial disease (PAD) all have significant effects on the feet, leading to potential discomfort.
There are further conditions that could also contribute, for example, thyroid problems. When the gland is not functioning effectively, your nerves may become affected, leading to odd sensations in the feet.
While some conditions are temporary and easily treated, others will require more in-depth medical attention:
In the UK, arthritis is a common condition that affects approximately 10 million people in some form. Around 400,000 of these people suffer from rheumatoid arthritis specifically, which occurs when the body’s natural defence system becomes weakened.
Up to 90% of people with rheumatoid arthritis will experience symptoms relating to their feet or ankles. The joints may become swollen and uncomfortable due to damage, which can also result in the shape of the toes and feet changing over time.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a treatable condition through medication, exercise or surgery, so it’s important to see a health professional at the first sign of foot discomfort.
Since the 1990s, the number of people in the United Kingdom diagnosed with diabetes has been rising. While today the figure stands at approximately 2.9 million, it is expected to rise to around 5 million by 2025.
Diabetes is a condition that prevents the body from using glucose and blood sugar as fuel, causing it to build up in the bloodstream.
The excess sugars may cause nerve damage and harm blood vessels in the feet, which can result in a decrease in sensitivity and a compromised flow of blood.
Due to today’s medication and treatments, diabetes can be managed. However, it’s important for people suffering from the condition to take care of their health, wear supportive footwear and reduce their risk of foot trauma.
If you’re experiencing abnormal severe foot pain, tell a doctor straight away for a quicker diagnosis.
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)
Peripheral Arterial Disease, referred to as PAD ,is a commonly occurring condition that results in a restricted blood supply to the leg muscles due to a build-up of fatty deposits.
While many people with the condition experience little to no symptoms, others may experience cramping in the calves and upper legs whilst moving around. PAD can also lead to foot pain or discomfort and prevent foot wounds from healing effectively.
The condition can be treated with medication and simple lifestyle changes, so get in touch with a professional today if you’re experiencing cramps or discomfort.
By getting yourself checked out at the first sign of these symptoms, you’ll be able to rest in the knowledge you’re well taken care of. Foot care is important, so listen to your body and don’t take any risks!
Rwanda is a small ambitious country known as the land of 1000 hills with a population around 12 million and a rapidly growing economy. It has rolling hills for as far as you can see, a rain forest, gorillas and volcanoes, making for quite the site to any visitor. However, it is also known for the 1994 genocide in which over 1 million people were killed in 100 days across the country.
This tragic event has led to some very big health issues, which the country still faces, but thanks to a range of donor funding and strong political leadership, the country is on its way to quickly becoming a middle-income country.
As countries shift from low incomes to middle income economies, health issues become complex, where the country can face a mix of communicable disease (ie. malaria, HIV, TB) and the introduction of non-communicable disease (ie. diabetes, high BP, cholesterol) with changes in lifestyles.
Now you are probably wondering what this has to do with podiatry?
Well, as clinicians we play a role in the overall wellbeing of every patient that walks through our door for treatment and we become advocates for a number public health issues. While our specialist area is focused on the foot and ankle, an understanding of the bodily systems is imperative for understanding the impacts on the lower limb. This allows us to transition from clinical practice to other work streams such as health policy, public health programmes, service management and research.
As a podiatrist with a public health background, the increase of diabetes and chronic conditions in developing nations has become of personal interest. In many of these countries, diabetes is poorly understood and without proper prevention and care, can lead to a large economic burdens on the healthcare system. In 2012, the UK alone spent a whopping £639 million on foot ulcers and £662 on lower limb amputations, so the prevention and monitoring of these conditions is of paramount importance in the developing world.
The quality of life for individuals with diabetes is also drastically affected if not controlled, impacting mobility, footwear and overall lifestyle. Additionally, chronic ulceration and limb amputation, creates an increases risk (approximately 80%) of mortality within the first 5 years post amputation.
How did all this lead me to Africa, I hear you say?
In April of 2016, I (sadly) departed from the Betafeet clinic to implement an mhealth project in Rwanda in partnership with the Ministry of Health. This project, allows patients across the country to speak with a doctor and receive a prescription via SMS through their mobile phone, reducing the travel time, wait time and expense of receiving care from one of the local physical hospitals. The system is also working on monitoring both communicable and non-communicable disease using artificial intelligence, engaging patients to take ownership of their health.
This could be a major milestone for a country with stretched resources. To put things into perspective, over 80% of the population lives in remote areas of the country and works in the ‘in-formal’ sector as subsistence farmers with an average income of 2-3 dollars per day, which is not very much. To receive care, a patient may travel over an hour to reach their nearest hospital where a doctor is present and then wait anywhere from a few hours to a few days to receive the care they need. However almost 80% of the population already has a mobile phone.
Appropriate access to clinical care is a large part of the prevention and management of many conditions and undertaking this project has been a great experience. As a clinician, I have had the opportunity to utilise my knowledge to develop operational pathways and input into the technology development to shape the way patients receive their care.
It is with
this experience I now look to move on to my next adventure focusing on Aboriginals
and the utilisation of technology in the prevention of major non communicable
disease such as diabetes.
Final comment from Reggie Simpson and Betafeet Podiatry
We wish Andre the very best in his future and thank him for this interesting blog account. We look forward to his next blog focused on his work with the Aboriginal population.