Ever wondered how big the global diabetic foot disease burden really is? Or how many people have diabetic foot complications? Or even if the diabetic foot print is getting bigger in a certain nation?

Well wonder no more! A new Australian-led study has published the first estimates of the global, regional and national numbers for diabetic foot complications in the top diabetes journal Diabetes Care.

This huge study – led by Dr Yuqi Zhang from Queensland University of Technology along with DFA’s mates Drs Lazzarini, van Netten, Armstrong, McPhail and Pacella – analysed an enormous amount of data from the Global burden of disease study to estimate the diabetic foot prevalence and disability burden numbers for 200 countries, 20 regions, 20 age groups and one planet.

They report 131 million people – 1.8% of everyone in the world – has a diabetic foot complication (either neuropathy, ulcers or amputations).  They estimate this causes 17 million years lived with disability annually and confirms the humble diabetic foot as a leading cause of all global disability.

They found males and our middle-to-older aged people are most affected.  They also found diabetic foot hot spots – those with much higher rates – in the Middle East, North Africa, Central America and Oceania nations; and cold spots were in East Asian, West African and Australasian nations.

And after all that, is the globe’s diabetic foot print getting bigger? Well unfortunately yes.

They report the global diabetic foot burden has grown by 15-31% over the last generation – even after standardising for age changes over time. But it wasn’t all bad news, as they also found some nations like Singapore, Japan and Brunei actually reduced their national diabetic foot print and that perhaps we should learn from those nations.

The authors recommend that much more epidemiology research is needed in future to ensure these estimates continue to be as accurate as possible. And with diabetic foot being a leading global disability cause, they urge governments to implement more interdisciplinary diabetic foot teams and evidence-based guidelines if they truly want to reduce their people’s total disability burdens.

In short, this new paper tells us the planet’s diabetic foot print is BIG and has got BIGGER over the last generation. But we can turn this into a much smaller foot print and end avoidable amputations over the next generation if we treat our nations and patients with evidence-based diabetic foot guidelines.

But for now, enjoy perusing this enormous repository of diabetic foot burden estimates and keep watching this space 😉