Featured News Finding out why diabetes causes foot ulcers

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Thu, 1 Jan 2015

Finding out why diabetes causes foot ulcers

In a world-first research project, a JCU researcher is assessing diabetic patients and the link between how they walk and its relation to foot ulcers.

First published 12 September 2012

In a world-first research project, a James Cook University researcher is assessing diabetic patients and the link between how they walk and its relation to foot ulcers.

The study’s coordinators, based at JCU in Townsville, are seeking diabetic patients to take part in the Diabetes and Foot Ulceration Study.

Principal investigator Mal Fernando, Clinical Podiatrist and PhD Candidate at JCU, said he would be looking at how diabetes affected foot complications, specifically the risk of foot ulceration.

“People with diabetic foot ulcers have a poor quality of life associated with multiple visits to specialists, dressing appointments and ongoing management until the ulcers heal,” he said.

“This can have a profound impact on the patient, their friends and families.”

Studies have shown diabetic foot ulceration is an increasing burden on the Australian health-care system, placing strain on resources and debilitating an individual’s quality of life and health status significantly.

In Australia, ulceration of the feet effects up to 10 percent of individuals with diabetes each year, with as many as 3400 amputations performed each year, costing between $48-$53 million in hospital management and up to $330 million overall in community costs.

Mr Fernando said his study was designed to look at differences in people with diabetes with and without foot ulcers.

“Our study will compare the way people walk, the make-up of factors in their blood, skin changes in ulcers at the cell level, or histology, and the likely biological reasons involved with getting foot ulcers, including the control of blood sugar,” he said.

“There is a team of specialist doctors and researchers involved and all patients will receive expert assessment of their condition for free.

“We will measure a range of factors that impact on foot complications in diabetes and provide information to referring practitioners and patients at the end of the one-year study.”

Mr Fernando said it would not cost anything to participate and volunteers would be making a significant contribution to medical research.

“Patients will also receive feedback on a comprehensive assessment of their diabetes on study completion.”

Participants will also have a comprehensive lower limb assessment conducted by diabetes and vascular specialists at the Townsville Hospital and they will receive feedback on their progress.

Mr Fernando said the gait study would take place in JCU’s state-of-the-art Movement Analysis Laboratory.

“We are using state of the art equipment at JCU in the movement analysis lab to assess walking patterns of diabetic patients, especially those with foot complications, foot ulcers in particular,” he said.

“This is the first study of its kind anywhere to our knowledge and JCU and the Townsville health district as well as community health services will benefit from this,” he said.

While the researchers cannot offer any treatment as part of the study, all participants will receive ongoing treatment at Townsville Hospital, Kirwan Community Health or their doctor/GP or podiatrist.

Ultimately, the research would influence the future treatment of diabetic foot ulcers, Mr Fernando said.

“We are conducting extensive investigations that will benefit clinicians, patients and the wider community with diabetic foot management, especially those burdened with foot ulcers in the long-term.”

Mr Fernando said that participants in the study would receive help with parking at JCU for the study.

Anyone interested in participating should talk to their doctor or podiatrist to fill out a statement of interest or contact Mal Fernando directly for more information on (07) 4781 3144.

For interviews or photos, contact Mr Fernando on (07) 4781 3144.

JCU Media contact: Caroline Kaurila (07) 4781 4586 or 0437 028 175