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Managing the diabetic foot in resource-poor settings: challenges and solutions

Authors Abbas ZG

Received 28 September 2016

Accepted for publication 8 August 2017

Published 27 October 2017 Volume 2017:4 Pages 135—142

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/CWCMR.S98762

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Lucy Goodman

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Marco Romanelli


Zulfiqarali G Abbas1,2

1Department of Internal Medicine, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; 2Department of Internal Medicine, Abbas Medical Centre, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Abstract: Diabetes mellitus is one of the most common noncommunicable diseases globally. In Africa, rates of diabetes are increasing, so there is a parallel increase of foot complications. Peripheral neuropathy is the main risk factor for foot ulceration in people with diabetes in developing nations, but peripheral arterial disease is also increasing in number owing to the change in lifestyle and increasing urbanization. Ulceration arising from peripheral neuropathy, peripheral arterial disease, and trauma are highly susceptible to secondary infection and gangrene, and are hence associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Government funding is very limited in many developing countries, and diabetes and its complications impose a heavy burden on health services. In particular, the outcomes of foot complications are often poor, and this is the result of various factors including lack of awareness of the need for foot care among patients, relatives, and health care providers; relatively few professionals with an interest in the diabetic foot and with the training to provide specialist treatment; nonexistent podiatry services; long distances for patients to travel to the clinic; delays among patients in seeking medical care, or the late referral of patients for specialist opinion; and lack of the awareness of the importance of a team approach to care, and the lack of training programs for health care professionals. Many of these can, however, potentially be tackled without exorbitant spending of financial resources. Cost-effective educational efforts should be targeted at both health care workers and patients. These include implementation of sustainable training programs for health care professionals with a special interest in foot care and focusing to disseminate the foot care information, on the prevention and management of the diabetic foot, to other health care professionals and to patients. The Step by Step foot program is an educational program that was first carried out in Tanzania and India. In conclusion, the only way to move forward in developing countries is educational programs on prevention and management of the diabetic foot. An interdisciplinary team approach is needed, and not multidisciplinary, for the management of the diabetic foot. Patients presenting early at a less severe stage will definitely lead to reduction in morbidity and death rates.

Keywords: Africa, diabetic foot, peripheral neuropathy, peripheral arterial disease, amputation, diabetic foot ulcers, Step by Step foot project

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