If you’re suffering from diabetes then you probably know the importance of managing your blood sugar levels to avoid serious complications such as poor blood flow and nerve damage which can lead to sores or ulcers on the feet. If you have diabetes then it’s critical to take steps to help prevent diabetic foot ulcers from forming or to prevent them from getting worse.
What is a diabetic foot ulcer?
A diabetic foot ulcer (DFU) is an open sore that usually forms on the bottom of the foot close to the big toe. According to the American Diabetes Association, there is a 25% chance of a diabetic patient suffering from a DFU at some point in their life.
Without treatment, even a superficial blister on the foot can quickly turn into an open sore. Why? Because people with diabetes often encounter nerve damage or peripheral neuropathy which numbs the nerves in the feet and toes. Ultimately, this means that they may not feel any foot pain and blisters, cuts and scrapes may go unnoticed.
Another condition that can affect diabetics is peripheral arterial disease (PAD) or lower extremity arterial disease (the two terms are often used interchangeably) that reduces blood flow in the legs and feet. This affects the body’s ability to heal so that once an ulcer develops it can take weeks or months for it to heal fully.
The risk of an ulcer becoming infected is high since it is an open sore. Furthermore, an infection can spread through the bloodstream into the foot tissues and bone posing a serious health risk. In severe cases, it may require the affected foot to be surgically amputated.
Fortunately, diabetic foot ulcers can be prevented. Typically daily foot inspections are recommended so that any signs of injury can be treated right away before it becomes an open sore. Maintaining a healthy weight and managing blood sugar levels also help keep the body healthy which, in turn, speeds up the healing process.
Here are 6 tips to help you prevent diabetic foot ulcers
Daily foot inspection
People suffering from diabetes should inspect their feet each day or ask a family member to do it for them. Look out for scratches, cuts, blisters and ingrown toenails. Also, check the bottom of the feet as blisters commonly form there. The feet should also be monitored for signs of infection including warmth, redness and swelling. If any of these symptoms are spotted it’s vital to seek treatment right away.
Choose footwear with care
Have your feet measured whenever you buy a new pair of shoes as their size and width can change over time. It’s important that shoes fit well, feel comfortable, and offer support to the ball and heel of the foot. Avoid shoes that are too tight or narrow or that have high heels since these can cause blisters and corns to form. Socks should be clean and dry without tight elastic bands. It’s also best to avoid wearing sandals or walking barefoot as your feet could become irritated from the ground’s surface and your toes could get scraped.
Diabetics must monitor their blood sugar levels to stay in a healthy range. High blood sugar levels can lead to foot complications and slow down healing.
Carrying too much weight also places increased pressure on your feet which, in turn, can cause friction when wearing shoes that may lead to scratches and blisters. Dietitians and nutritionists can help you lose weight. However, if obesity is making it difficult to manage your blood sugar levels, you may want to speak to your doctor about weight loss surgery and whether that could be right for you.
When you’re looking for ways to prevent diabetic foot ulcers quitting smoking is one of the first things to consider. Nicotine in tobacco narrows the blood vessels that deliver nutrients, oxygen and healing factors to an injured area. This has the effect of slowing down the healing process and can extend the duration of pain. There is also an increased risk of developing lower extremity arterial disease that slows the flow of blood to the legs and feet.
Plan frequent vascular screening
Screenings can help detect conditions before they become serious health issues that require urgent medical attention. Without treatment, peripheral arterial disease can reach an advanced stage that puts a person at risk of lower limb amputation.
Here at The Midwest Institute for Non-Surgical Therapy Dr Goke Akinwande and his friendly team specialise in PAD screening, state-of-the-art endovascular treatments and amputation prevention. Why not schedule your free vascular screening or use online booking today to visit one of our 5 clinics, including the latest addition in Chicago, IL.and take another step to help prevent diabetic foot ulcers.