If you or a loved one are living with diabetes, one area of the body you need to be especially aware of is your feet. We’ve all likely taken our feet for granted at one time or another, but people living with diabetes are at particular risk for a non-healing diabetic foot ulcer, a potentially life-threatening complication of diabetes that can advance to amputation if not treated.
What Are Diabetic Foot Ulcers?
Diabetic foot ulcers are sores on the feet or anywhere below the ankle that someone with diabetes may develop. If you have diabetes and you have an open sore on your foot that just won’t heal, is red, painful, and warm, is draining pus, smells funny or just doesn’t seem to get better, then you may have a non-healing diabetic foot ulcer.
If this is you, you need to see your doctor as some as possible. RegenQuest’s wound care specialists are available to discuss treatment options.
Diabetic foot ulcers are common – in fact, one in four people with diabetes will develop at least one ulcer post-diagnosis. About 70% of Diabetics suffer from peripheral neuropathy, and for that reason often don’t know they have a foot ulcer until it is already infected. The most commonplace for an ulcer to form is on the big toe or balls of feet but often develops on the scar tissue of a previous ulcer. Ulcers can be serious and life-threatening; they are the leading cause of amputation due to diabetes.
Why Are Diabetics Prone To Chronic Foot Ulcers?
The higher than normal blood sugar level (in poorly controlled diabetics), compromised circulation and nerve problems are the main reasons that diabetics end up with chronic foot ulcers. The neuropathy may prevent the diabetic from realizing he has injured his foot, and the poor circulation results in limited oxygen supply, essential for wound healing, to the affected area.
Diabetic Neuropathy – Diabetes can cause damage to nerves in parts of the body, particularly the feet. It’s one of the most common complications experienced by people living with diabetes. This damage to the nerves can alter sensation in the feet, resulting in anything from increased sensitivity and pain to tingling and complete loss of sensation.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) – This comes from a blockage of the arteries in the legs. When someone has PAD, blood vessels are not able to deliver the oxygen and nutrients needed for an ulcer to heal. Around 45% of diabetic foot ulcers occur in people who have both diabetic neuropathy and PAD.Some symptoms of PAD include:
- Pain in the legs due to activity – pain usually improves with rest
- Pain in the legs even while at rest
- Legs that get tired with activity
- The decreased growth of leg hair or toenails
- One leg or foot that is cooler than the other
- Toes or a foot that is pale or blue in color
- Non-healing foot ulcer
Other factors that increase the likelihood of having a diabetic foot ulcer may include:
- Being older than 60 years of age
- Abnormal shape of the foot, either due to prior amputation or other ulcers on the feet
- Chronic kidney disease
- High blood sugar measurements
The higher than normal blood sugar level (in poorly controlled diabetics), compromised circulation and nerve problems are the main reason that diabetics end up with chronic wounds like foot ulcers. The neuropathy may prevent the diabetic from realizing he has injured his foot, and the poor circulation results in limited oxygen supply, essential for wound healing, to the affected area.
The Statistics Are Very Concerning:
- More than two million people every year suffer from diabetic foot ulcers in the United States
- 15% of them may require amputation
- 70% of diabetics suffer from various degrees of neuropathy
- 25% of diabetics suffer from a diabetic foot ulcer at least once in their life
- Once a diabetics limb has been amputated, 50% have the opposite limb amputated within 5 years.
- The mortality rate is as high as 50% five years post-amputation.
- 80% of nontraumatic lower-extremity amputations are a result of non – healing foot ulcers.
How To Prevent Diabetic Foot Ulcers
Although statistically diabetic foot ulcers are most commonly seen in older diabetic men, all diabetics are prone to them. There are some simple steps all diabetics need to take to prevent foot ulcers:
- Do not self-treat a wound, or remove corns and calluses.
- Blood sugar levels must be kept within normal limits. A correct diabetic diet and regular exercise are essential.
- Bare feet must be inspected daily for any cuts or grazes. Any wound must be cleaned and treated immediately. If the wound shows no sign of healing or worsens, immediately go to a doctor.
- Avoid ingrown toenails, a source of infection. Cut toenails straight and not too short.
- Good foot hygiene is vital. This includes socks and shoes, they must always be dry and clean.
- Ensure shoes are well-fitting and don’t rub or exert pressure on the feet.
Signs Of A Diabetic Foot Ulcer
Early Signs Of A Diabetic Foot Ulcer Include:
- Drainage on socks
- Foot swelling
- Skin irritation
- The foot has a bad odor.
The More Serious Signs Of Diabetic Foot Ulcer Are:
- Black tissue (eschar) around the ulcer, as a result of poor blood flow
- Partial or complete gangrene which is a sign of tissue death. This is often accompanied by a foul odor and discharge.
How To Treat A Diabetic Foot Ulcer
Early detection of a diabetic ulcer will result in a better outcome, so it is vital that diabetics examine their feet daily and immediately treat even the smallest wound. The treatment of the ulcer will depend on the severity of the condition.
- Try to keep weight off your feet as much as possible.
- Disinfect and clean the ulcer as soon as it is detected. Dry the foot properly and apply a clean dressing.
- See a doctor immediately If there is any sign of infection (redness, swelling, discharge, etc.)
Specialized Wound Care In Deerfield Beach
At RegenQuest we offer specialized wound care and nutritional support of each patient’s specific medical condition. We accept medical insurance company health plans including Medicaid and Medicare. If you are worried about your loved one’s diabetic foot ulcer or have any questions regarding diabetic nutrition, contact us, we can help.