Foot ulcers will affect an estimated 19-34% of all people with diabetes during their lifetime. If you live with diabetes, knowing the causes and symptoms of a diabetic foot ulcer can help you protect your feet and avoid complications like infection and amputation.
How can a person get a diabetic foot ulcer?
A foot ulcer is an open sore or wound located on the bottom of the foot. A diabetic foot ulcer is an ulcer that heals slowly or doesn’t heal at all due to diabetes.
People with diabetes have chronically high blood sugar levels. Over time, high blood sugar can damage nerves and poor circulation. This makes it difficult for people with diabetes to feel pain, like that caused by puncture wounds in the feet. These factors can also cause foot wounds to heal slowly or not at all.
When not treated, diabetic foot ulcers can become infected and lead to amputation. According to a 2018 study published in the
If you have diabetes, your doctor may recommend that you inspect your feet daily for signs of wounds. Symptoms of diabetic foot ulcers include pain, redness, and swelling in the affected area, along with skin discoloration.
Diabetic foot ulcers may also cause fluid or pus to seep from the wound, which can make your socks and shoes damp. Changes to the skin or toenails like cuts, sores, or blisters are other symptoms of a diabetic foot ulcer, as well as a foul odor coming from the wound or your feet.
Diabetes itself is a risk factor for foot ulcers. Other factors include wearing poorly fitting shoes, being obese, and having moist feet, such as when sweating or not drying your feet after bathing. Obesity, kidney disease, heart disease, and using tobacco or alcohol are also risk factors.
A podiatrist usually treats diabetic foot ulcers. The treatment methods used will vary based on the severity of the ulcer.
Potential treatments for diabetic foot ulcers include staying off your feet, wearing custom orthotics or shoe inserts, and wearing a cast or foot brace. Your podiatrist may also drain fluid or pus from the ulcer, prescribe antibiotics to control the infection, and perform debridement or surgery to remove dead skin, foreign objects, bone, or other abnormalities causing the ulcer.
How To Prevent a Diabetic Foot Ulcer
Keeping your blood sugar levels within a healthy range is the most effective way to prevent a foot ulcer. Here are other steps you can take to prevent a diabetic foot ulcer.
Your health care team can talk to you in greater detail about how to manage diabetes and reduce your risk for diabetic foot ulcers.