According to the National Institutes of Health, about 60% of people with diabetes will develop nerve damage that eventually leads to a foot ulcer. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about diabetic foot ulcers that may help you avoid this condition if you are living with diabetes.
A diabetic foot ulcer is a wound or open sore that develops on the bottom of the foot in people who have diabetes. High blood sugar levels in diabetes can damage nerves and blood vessels, which makes it difficult to feel wounds on your feet. This results in foot wounds going unnoticed and healing very slowly or not at all. When not treated right away, a diabetic ulceration can increase the risk of infection and amputation of the affected foot or leg.
A chronic diabetic foot ulcer wound is the same as a diabetic foot ulcer. Nearly all diabetic foot ulcers are chronic due to their inability to heal.
Diabetic ulcers are most common in people with diabetes who are unable to control or manage their blood sugar levels. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage nerves to cause a condition called diabetic neuropathy. This nerve damage can make it difficult for people with diabetes to know or feel when they develop wounds such as punctures, blisters, and calluses on their feet.
High blood sugar levels can also interfere with blood flow, which can prevent oxygen and nutrients from traveling to wound sites and allowing them to heal. Many people with diabetes are at risk for diabetic ulcers and complications including amputation due to slow wound healing.
Anyone who has diabetes is at risk of developing a diabetic foot ulcer. However, some people with diabetes are at higher risk if they are also obese, smoke tobacco products, and use alcohol. People with diabetes-related conditions including kidney disease, heart disease, and peripheral neuropathy are also at high risk for diabetic foot ulcers.
Taking care of your feet if you have diabetes is extremely important, as proper foot care can reduce your risk for diabetic ulcers and their related complications. Practicing diabetic foot care can help you stay comfortable, improve your quality of life, and avoid hospitalization and medical costs related to foot wounds.
The best treatment for a diabetic foot wound depends on the root cause of your wound. The primary goal of treating a diabetic foot wound is to make sure it heals as quickly as possible to prevent infection.
Staying off the foot ulcer is one of the most effective treatments, as it reduces irritation and lessens the amount of pressure being placed on the wound. This is often known as “off-loading,” and may require the use of a crutch or foot brace.
Medications, dressings, and surgery are other treatments for a diabetic foot wound, though surgery is usually only required to treat severe wounds. Some people with diabetic foot wounds find that their wound starts healing more quickly after taking steps to properly get their blood sugar levels under control.
One of the best ways to avoid a diabetic foot ulcer is to manage your blood sugar levels. This typically involves taking your diabetes medication as directed and practicing healthy behaviors that keep your blood sugar in a healthy range. Exercising regularly and eating healthy foods can reduce high blood sugar levels over time.
Other ways to prevent a foot ulcer if you have diabetes are to wear properly fitting shoes, trim your toenails, and avoid walking barefoot. Seeing your podiatrist regularly for an examination is another effective way to prevent a foot ulcer.
What’s the Most Important Thing to Know About the Development and Complications of Diabetic Foot Ulcers?
Early intervention and treatment are essential to preventing complications related to diabetic foot ulcers. If you have diabetes, you should meet with your podiatrist regularly to have your toenails safely and professionally trimmed and to have your feet examined and treated for any open wounds. Staying on top of routine diabetic foot care can help ensure you maintain good foot health.