Background: Limited access to basic foot care and protective footwear may contribute to diabetic foot complications. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of foot complications, ongoing foot care, and footwear use in diabetic subjects in a remote northern Canadian Aboriginal community.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional cohort study of 169 diabetic people, including interview, physical examination, and retrospective chart review.
Results: The mean age of the 169 diabetic individuals in the study was 56 +/- 12 years and their duration of diabetes 10 +/- 7 years. There were 139 (82%) individuals who had 418 diabetic foot complications (average, 3.0 complications per subject with complications), including toenail pathology, foot and ankle deformities, calluses, impaired pulses, neuropathy, past or present ulcer, amputation, and Charcot arthropathy. Risk classification showed that 69 (41%) individuals were at risk for future ulceration. Fifty-five (33%) individuals had inadequate footwear for their foot risk category, and only 11 (17%) of 66 individuals in the higher risk categories (categories 2 and 3) had suitable footwear. In a 7-year period, only 0.7 screening foot examinations per diabetic subject per year were documented. However, during this period, foot problems accounted for 498 (18%) local emergency room visits, 359 (16%) hospitalization days, 109 (11%) nonemergency transfers, and 4 (6%) emergency transfers to a tertiary care hospital.
Conclusions: Foot and ankle complications of diabetes in this remote Aboriginal community were common and associated with substantial morbidity. Preventive diabetic foot screening examinations and footwear were inadequate. The results suggest that programs for prevention and early detection of complications are needed, including foot screening, provision of appropriate footwear, and foot care.