Approximately 20% of patients with diabetes will, at one time, have a diabetic foot ulcer. This can result in, among other things, amputation. A foot ulcer is an open wound on the bottom of the foot, which can develop because of poor circulation, trauma, or after having diabetes for a long time. It can be made worse because people who have had diabetes for a long time often have difficulty feeling pain in the feet. The first thing that might signal a problem is drainage found in the socks; however, by the time this is noticed the wound can be very serious.
If you think you have a foot ulcer, you should not hesitate to get treatment – the longer you wait, the greater the chance of infection and additional problems. Treating a foot ulcer involves:
- Debriding the wound, to remove any dead skin or tissue
- “Off-loading,” which is taking pressure off the area by wearing a brace or using a wheelchair or crutches
- Cleaning the wound often and thoroughly and applying medications and dressings to prevent infection
- Keeping blood glucose levels under control in order to speed healing and prevent further complications
Risk factors for foot ulcers include smoking, drinking, high glucose levels, high cholesterol, being overweight, and wearing shoes that aren’t appropriate. Many diabetic patients have an increased risk for foot ulcers if they have a foot deformity, such as bunions or hammer toes. If this is the case, surgery might be required to correct the problem and take pressure off the affected area.
As you can see, a diabetic foot ulcer can become very serious and very painful if it is not treated quickly and correctly. It is important, if you are a diabetic, to check your feet every day for any sign of abnormality, such as cuts, cracks, blisters, or redness. Even if it may seem like nothing, you should report any problems to your doctor.