About 1 in 10 of us suffer from diabetes – that’s a whopping 37.3 million Americans. Furthermore, 1 in 5 people don’t even know they have the condition.
For individuals managing diabetes – a condition affecting blood sugar regulation – foot ulcers can be a common problem. These open sores can develop on the feet, posing significant health risks and should never be underestimated. This article provides valuable advice on preventing diabetic foot ulcers and stopping them from worsening.
What are foot ulcers exactly?
A foot ulcer is an open sore that develops across the foot often (but not always) as a complication of uncontrolled diabetes.
It could be that your ulcer started as a small cut or a blister that burst and never healed. Excessive, repeated pressure and friction can also cause the skin to slowly break down.
Diabetes is linked with peripheral neuropathy – a nerve damage condition that means you may be unable to feel your feet. Consequently, if you’re not paying attention to your feet, blisters, scrapes and cuts can go unnoticed for hours or days.
Whatever the cause of the ulcer, it is likely to worsen without treatment. Diabetes reduces blow flow to the legs and feet, which is known as Lower Extremity Arterial Disease, and this, in turn, restricts the supply of nutrients and oxygen and prolongs the healing period. As a result, diabetic foot ulcers can take weeks or even months to fully heal.
Why are diabetic foot ulcers so dangerous?
Because foot ulcers are open sores they can easily become infected, and the longer the sore remains open, the greater your risk of infection. That’s because the same circulatory issues that affected your body’s ability to heal have also reduced its ability to fight off germs.
An infection that originates in the ulcer can spread through the bloodstream to a bone in the foot. Bone infections present a significant health risk, which in severe cases can require the affected foot to be amputated to stop the progression and save your life.
How common is this outcome?
It’s estimated that around 200,000 Americans have amputations each year. Of that number, approximately 130,000 have diabetes and around 80% of these incidents started with a foot ulcer.
So, the answer is: the outcome is extremely common and very dangerous!
How to prevent diabetic ulcers from developing
Fortunately, most ulcers and any further complications are avoidable provided you follow the five recommendations detailed below.
- Daily foot inspection
It’s essential to check both feet each day for cuts, scratches, blisters and ingrown toenails. If you can’t reach the bottom of your feet, then try using a mirror as blisters tend to form in that area. Also, monitor your feet for signs of infection like redness, swelling, and warmth, and seek immediate treatment if you notice any changes.
- Proper Footwear:
Wearing ill-fitting shoes increases the risk of developing blisters. Ensure that your shoes are neither too tight nor too loose. Foot size and width may change over time, so it's wise to have your feet measured when buying new shoes. Choose shoes with half an inch of space between the toes and the tip of the shoe and ample arch support. Opt for clean, dry socks without tight elastic bands that might restrict blood flow. Avoid walking barefoot or wearing sandals that expose your feet to potential harm, and stay away from high-heeled shoes as they can cause skin pinching and blisters.
- Blood Sugar Management:
Monitoring and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is crucial if you have diabetes. High blood sugar can lead to foot complications and hinder healing. Speak to your health care team about counting carbs in food and drinks which is an important tool for managing blood sugar levels.
- Weight loss
Excess weight places additional stress on your feet, potentially leading to friction and the development of blisters and cuts. Try and lose some weight by eating more healthily and exercising regularly. In cases where obesity affects blood sugar control, you can discuss the possibility of weight loss surgery with your doctor.
- Tobacco Cessation:
Tobacco products contain chemicals that impede the healing process and can hinder recovery from foot ulcers. They are also associated with circulatory problems that increase the risk of lower extremity arterial disease, reducing blood flow in the legs and feet. Quitting smoking is challenging, but the hard work is worth it if you want to save a limb!
Diabetic foot ulcers and leg wounds are preventable with vigilance and proper care. However, they don’t heal like typical injuries and require specialist care.
Here at MINT, we provide comprehensive diabetic wound care and following an initial consultation, we will create your customized treatment plan.
Considering that most diabetic sores are linked to inadequate blood circulation, we will conduct an ultrasound study to evaluate your vascular flow. If any issues arise concerning your flow, an angiogram can be conducted to enhance circulation without the need for extensive surgery.
If you are dealing with a diabetic wound, it's crucial not to postpone treatment. Instead, reach out to the Midwest Institute for Non-Surgical Therapy promptly, either by phone or by scheduling an appointment online. This timely action could make all the difference in preserving your limb and ultimately, your life.
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