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Keywords:

  • attitudes;
  • health/illness;
  • beliefs;
  • care-seeking behaviour;
  • diabetes mellitus complications;
  • foot ulcer;
  • gender;
  • self-care

Background.  No studies have been found regarding beliefs about health and illness in patients with diabetic foot ulcers investigated from a patient perspective. Beliefs might affect self-care and health.

Aim.  To explore beliefs about health and illness among patients with severe diabetic foot lesions that might affect self-care practice and care-seeking behaviour.

Method.  The study design was explorative. A purposive sampling procedure was used. Focus group interviews were held, with 10 women and 11 men under 65 years (working age) and six women and 12 men over 65 years (range 23–83 years) with present or previous diabetic foot lesions managed at a specialized multidisciplinary diabetic foot clinic.

Findings.  Foot problems were perceived by participants as caused by both external and internal factors related to the individual. Self-care was practised to restore health when ill and in daily foot care. When help was needed it was sought in the professional sector. Women were active in self-care and preventive care, searched for information and tried to adapt to the situation. Men more often sought help for acute problems, discussed more foot-related problems, had a pessimistic view of the future, showed a passive attitude, accepted information given and used more complementary care from the lay sector (wife) and/or the professional sector (district nurse, home care staff, podiatrist). Foot lesions caused deterioration of perceived health and quality of life due to decreased ability to be active.

Conclusion.  The present study emphasizes the need to take into account the existence of different beliefs about health and illness, especially regarding gender, in the prevention and management of the diabetic foot.