According to the CDC, just over 1 in 10 Americans had diabetes in 2020. About half of diabetic patients have diabetic neuropathy or nerve damage. It is most often experienced as numbness, tingling, or pain in the legs and feet, and in combination with the poor circulation that is also caused by diabetes, puts patients at greater risk for foot problems. One common issue, affecting about 15% of diabetes patients, is diabetic foot ulcers.
Don’t worry there is hope.
Ulcers can be both treated and prevented more on that later.
Diabetic foot ulcers are open sores or wounds on the foot. When a patient is unable to feel that they’ve gotten a cut, sore, or blister on their foot due to neuropathy, those injuries are left untreated, which allows them to develop into a more serious ulcer. Poor blood flow, which results when diabetes narrows and hardens the arteries in the legs and feet, then makes it harder for the injury to heal, making it more likely that the wound will become infected.
When left untreated, diabetic foot ulcers can cause abscesses or bone infections, which can lead to hospitalization and even amputation. You’re at higher risk for developing a foot ulcer if you have neuropathy, poor control of your blood sugar, vascular disease, diabetic kidney disease, or have had foot ulcers in the past. Smoking, obesity, or insulin dependence can also increase your risk.
If you have limited or no sensation in your feet, you will need to look for other signs to know if you might be developing a foot ulcer. Check your feet daily, looking for:
If you see any of these signs or notice anything else that concerns you (such as an injury), contact Dr. Kelly for an appointment immediately. Early care can make a huge difference in the success of treatment.
Ideally, treatment for a foot ulcer should start as soon as possible. Depending on how advanced the ulcer is, treatment will include:
Infection prevention: Infection is the factor that can turn a small sore into a life-threatening problem, so if there’s any sign an infection is taking hold, you will be prescribed oral and topical antibiotics to fight it.
Offloading: Many times foot ulcers develop from minor wounds such as blisters that are made worse from continual pressure being put on them, especially when they occur on the bottom of the foot. Special footwear, braces, or mobility aids (such as crutches or a wheelchair) designed to take that pressure off can speed up the healing process.
Wound dressing: Foot ulcers heal more quickly and are less likely to get infected when they’re covered and kept moist as they heal. Special dressings that are designed to keep the wound from drying out, as well as medications designed to promote tissue growth, will be used to help your body repair the damage naturally.
Debridement: This is the removal of calluses around the ulcer and dead (necrotic) tissue. If the ulcer has turned into an abscess, the abscess will need to be drained and debrided as well.
If treatment is successful in preventing infection, a foot ulcer is unlikely to require surgery. However, when regular treatment isn’t sufficient, surgery or advanced therapies may be necessary.
The most effective treatment for diabetic foot ulcers is to avoid getting them in the first place. This means caring for and examining your feet daily, and reporting any injuries or abnormalities to your care team at Las Vegas Footcare right away. It also means scheduling a foot exam with Dr. Kelly at least annually and following your prescribed care plan to keep your feet in good health. Even minor problems can be the prelude to serious complications when it comes to diabetic foot care—if you have any doubts, don’t wait to come in. Schedule an appointment by calling 702-605-6220 or filling out our online contact form today.