Treating and Preventing Diabetic Ulcers
At NY Foot Health (part of the New York State Podiatric Medical Association, NYSPMA), we know that one of the more significant health threats faced by diabetic patients is the development of a foot ulcer. An ulcer is an open wound commonly located on the bottom of the foot. The biggest concern with foot ulcers is the development of an infection which can lead to amputation. Foot ulcerations precede 85 percent of amputations related to diabetes.
Wound care science has advanced significantly over the last decade. Foot doctors will use a combination of treatment methods to deal with a wound in the hopes of avoiding an infection. These may include any or all of the following:
- Taking the pressure off the affected foot by having the patient wear special footwear or a cast and possibly using crutches or a wheelchair
- ·Cleansing the wound daily and applying a wound dressing or bandage
- Debriding the wound, removing dead skin and tissue
- Making sure the patient keeps blood glucose levels under tight control until the wound is healed
Keeping Wounds Away
Research has shown that it is possible to prevent foot ulcers from forming in the first place. Some diabetic patients are at greater than risk than others, including:
- Older men
- Native Americans, African Americans and Hispanics
- Insulin users
- Patients with diabetes-related kidney, eye and heart disease
- Being overweight
- Alcohol and tobacco use
Lack of feeling or neuropathy, which is commonly associated with diabetes, can make it difficult to detect foot wounds because a patient may not feel pain from the ulcer. Several strategies that can be helpful for prevention include:
- Maintaining a schedule of regular podiatric checkups. If you have diabetes your podiatrist is a key player in managing your disease. If you don’t have a podiatrist, we can help you find one here.
- Doing self-exams or having someone do it for you. Any redness, cuts, blisters or rashes should be reported to the podiatrist at once.
- Avoiding going barefoot.
- Wearing shoes that are roomy in the toe box and made of soft material.
- Not doing nail cutting or attempting to treat ingrown toenails, warts or corns on your own.