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New Zealand’s Diabetes Epidemic

A leading cause of death, poorly managed diabetes is the major cause of heart attacks and strokes, kidney failure and blindness. It is the largest contributor to foot and leg amputations and causes impotence.

A report from Diabetes NZ Auckland.

Diabetes is emerging as the biggest health catastrophe the world has ever seen. It will overwhelm healthcare resources everywhere and will jeopardize the health and lives of over half a million New Zealanders within the next decade. According to WHO, Diabetes is going to reduce life expectancy for the first time in 200 years.

A leading cause of death, poorly managed diabetes is the major cause of heart attacks and strokes, kidney failure and blindness. It is the largest contributor to foot and leg amputations and causes impotence. Over 208, 000 New Zealanders already have diagnosed diabetes but as many again have it without knowing it.

Despite these alarming figures, little concerted effort has been put into tackling the issue that will affect more New Zealanders than any other. The cost of Diabetes to New Zealand's health budget will soar from 4% in 2000 to 14% in 2020. That's more than one billion dollars extra each year.

This growth is fuelled mainly by an increase in Type 2 diabetes which is undeniably linked to obesity, poor diet and lack of exercise. This means that a large proportion of diabetes care and prevention is self care.

Through knowledge of one's own condition, people can change behaviour patterns to make the lifestyle decisions that go a long way to avoiding the life-threatening complications that can follow in diabetes' wake. Healthy eating and regular exercise are of utmost importance.

"Diabetes increases your chance of developing ongoing foot problems," Says Angela Bayley, from the Orthotics Centre in Wellington. "Not everyone is at risk but the chances of foot complications may increase the longer you have diabetes. Managing your diabetes is the best method of taking care of your feet and will help to avoid complications."

"High blood glucose levels may lead to nerve damage in feet and legs with loss of feeling, burning, pins and needles, numbness and shooting pains. People with diabetes may also have narrowing of blood vessels, reducing the blood supply to their feet".

"Both nerve damage and reduced circulation may result in a wound taking longer to heal and getting infected more easily. This may lead to an ulcer and in severe cases to an amputation. Joints can become stiff and feet less flexible, developing deformities that can place abnormal stresses on parts of the foot, particularly on the soles. This may also result in ulcers."

How can I prevent foot problems?

"The best way to prevent foot complications", advises Angela, "is the same as the best way to avoid any other diabetes complications – blood glucose control, blood pressure and cholesterol control, weight loss and.exercise programmes."

"Check your feet every day. If you can't see the soles of your feet yourself, use a mirror or get someone else to check for you. Rub cream onto your feet. Inspect your shoes for rubbing, abrasions and pressure areas. Take notice of any cramping pain in the calf or foot muscles and get it checked. A regular visit to a podiatrist is a wise move, especially if you suspect foot complications."