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Podiatrists should also be checking for heart problems

Thursday 1st March 2018
Foot health check-up appointments for diabetic patients should be used by podiatrists to look for signs of potential heart problems, a new report states. Image: karelnoppe via iStock
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Podiatrists could play a key role in spotting the signs of possible heart problems in patients with diabetes during their annual foot health checks, according to a new study.

The report, from the Podiatry and Atrial Fibrillation Case Finding Project, suggests that as podiatrists check patients' pulses as part of these appointments anyway, they should be assessing whether there is any potential risk to their cardiovascular health at the same time.

A three-month pilot study saw 5,000 patients with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes from the north-east of England have the pulse in their feet tested. Doctors than used these readings to identify patients at risk of atrial fibrillation.

Overall, for every 500 individuals tested, one new case of the disease was diagnosed. As the condition can cause the heart to beat irregularly, atrial fibrillation patients are significantly more likely to suffer blood clots, strokes and heart attacks.

As a result, by carrying out a few extra checks aside from just looking for diabetic foot ulcers and signs of infection during diabetic patients' annual foot health check-ups, podiatrists could end up saving individuals' lives.

Statistics from Public Health England estimate that 2.4 per cent of the UK population is living with atrial fibrillation, but just 1.6 per cent of these have received a diagnosis. Therefore, podiatrist have an important part to play in helping spot undiagnosed patients so they can begin receiving the treatment they need.

Linda Hicks, leader of the project and a podiatrist with the County and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, explained: "The feet can provide an excellent indication of a patient's wider health and can be the first sign of a potentially serious problem that, if caught early, could save a life.

"Patients with diabetes have a much greater risk of developing problems with their feet, which is why we want to stress the importance of their annual foot check."

Written by Angela Newbury

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