What is a Diabetic Foot Ulcer?
A diabetic foot ulcer is an open sore or wound that occurs in approximately 15 percent of patients with diabetes and is commonly located on the bottom of the foot. Of those who develop a foot ulcer, 6 percent will be hospitalized due to infection or other ulcer-related complication.
Anyone who has diabetes can develop a foot ulcer. People who use insulin are at higher risk of developing a foot ulcer, as are patients with diabetes-related kidney, eye, and heart disease. Being overweight and using alcohol and tobacco also play a role in the development of foot ulcers.
Ulcers form due to a combination of factors, such as lack of feeling in the foot, poor circulation, foot deformities, irritation (such as friction or pressure), and trauma, as well as duration of diabetes. Patients who have diabetes for many years can develop neuropathy, a reduced or complete lack of ability to feel pain in the feet due to nerve damage caused by elevated blood glucose levels over time. The nerve damage often can occur without pain, and one may not even be aware of the problem. Your podiatrist can test feet for neuropathy with a simple, painless tool called a monofilament.
Vascular disease can complicate a foot ulcer, reducing the body’s ability to heal and increasing the risk for an infection. Elevations in blood glucose can reduce the body’s ability to fight off a potential infection and also slow healing.
Because many people who develop foot ulcers have lost the ability to feel pain, pain is not a common symptom. Many times, the first thing you may notice is some drainage on your socks. Redness and swelling may also be associated with the ulceration and, if it has progressed significantly, odor may be present.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The primary goal in the treatment of foot ulcers is to obtain healing as soon as possible. The faster the healing, the less chance for an infection.
There are several key factors in the appropriate treatment of a diabetic foot ulcer:
- Prevention of infection
- Taking the pressure off the area, called “off-loading”
- Removing dead skin and tissue, called “debridement”
- Applying medication or dressings to the ulcer
- Managing blood glucose and other health problems
Not all ulcers are infected; however, if your podiatrist diagnoses an infection, a treatment program of antibiotics, wound care, and possibly hospitalization will be necessary.
To keep an ulcer from becoming infected, it is important to:
- keep blood glucose levels under tight control
- keep the ulcer clean and bandaged
- cleanse the wound daily, using a wound dressing or bandage
- avoid walking barefoot.
Book Your Appointment Today
We welcome your questions Do you have questions regarding your own situation? Do you actually want to resolve your problem and not just temporarily cover up the pain?