Our feet constantly make contact with the ground and everything on it, from children’s toys to stones to a chair. Stepping on or running into these items normally creates a feeling or sensation in your foot. It could be the warm fuzzy feeling socks provide or the pressure of a tiny block your grandchild missed, but not all can feel these sensations in their feet. Nearly half of people with diabetes have diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage common in the feet and legs that results in the loss of feeling, specifically the protective sensation of pain, pressure and heat. Diabetics who have neuropathy are more likely to experience a diabetic ulcer, or an open sore or wound appearing most often on the bottom of the foot. In fact, approximately 15% of patients with diabetes have experienced a diabetic foot ulcer.
How Can You Tell If You Have a Diabetic Foot Ulcer?
A diabetic foot ulcer appears as a round red crater in the skin bordered by thickened callused skin. In some cases, the ulcer is deep enough to expose tendons or bones. Since many patients experience diabetic neuropathy, you may not feel the pain, pressure or heat coming from the injury. If this is the case, other indicators include blood or discharge on your sock or floor, swelling, or odor.
Why Should Diabetic Foot Ulcers Be Taken Seriously?
Although a small open sore may seem harmless, it is dangerous for those with diabetes, especially if they have neuropathy. Since neuropathy reduces feeling in the feet, you could be subject to repetitive minor injuries that go undetected. When left untreated, the injury, such as a foot ulcer, can get infected. This infection, combined with poor blood flow, can lead to more serious complications, including amputation. Actually, many studies have reported that foot ulcers precede approximately 85% of all amputations performed in diabetic patients. If you notice irritated skin and redness, it’s best to contact us immediately. As more time passes, the chances of the wound healing decrease. That’s why we urge you to take care of a diabetic foot ulcer as soon as possible.
What is the Treatment?
Our podiatrist will remove the unhealthy tissue from the wound, a technique called debridement. This sparks the body’s natural healing mechanism. Then, we will apply a dressing to the wound which will need to be changed regularly to avoid infection.
Continuous pressure will only worsen a diabetic foot ulcer. In that case, we will recommend “offloading”, or keeping the affected area free of weight-bearing by providing a cast, surgical shoe or boot. If an ulcer is not healed within four weeks, then something else may be obstructing the healing process.
How Can You Prevent Diabetic Ulcers?
Patients with diabetes should check their feet regularly, whether by laying a mirror on the floor and positioning your foot above it to see, asking a family member to inspect your feet, or seeing your doctor for inspection.
The best way to prevent diabetic foot ulcers is to keep a careful eye on your blood sugar. Uncontrolled glucose is often behind neuropathy, the main cause of a diabetic ulcer that goes unnoticed. Normal glucose levels help wounds or sores heal faster and keep ulcers from developing in the first place. Patients with neuropathy should visit their doctor every two to three months for early detection of foot ulcers and preventative measures to stop the development of foot ulcers.
In any case, our team of board-certified podiatrists are here to help you prevent and treat diabetic foot ulcers along with preventing amputation. Feel free to contact us to schedule an appointment, learn more about our offices, or ask us questions about how to properly take care of your feet.