Patients with diabetes know all too well about the risks of wounds and the importance of proper foot care. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, nearly half of the 15% of diabetic patients with foot ulcers will require hospitalization. In addition, the World Health Organization and the International Diabetes Federation estimate that approximately 85% of diabetes-related amputations are preventable. Following a diabetes diagnosis, neuropathy, ulceration, infection, and vascular disease can all lead to amputation.
Diabetes can narrow the blood vessels in the body and reduce healthy circulation in the legs and feet. Diabetic patient’s may then develop peripheral neuropathy—a type of nerve damage that brings about a loss of sensation in the nerves furthest away from the body– the hands and feet. If you’re unable to feel pain, you may be unaware of developing foot ulcers or other injuries. If you continue to walk on or irritate a wound, blister, or an ulcer, it can lead to a serious infection.
If an infection is left untreated and spreads to the bone, it could cause irreparable damage and amputation becomes necessary. The removal of toes, feet, and lower legs is more common among those with diabetes than most other health conditions. However, with proactive, proper self-care, you can limit or prevent your risk of amputation.
If you have diabetes, it is especially important that you seek medical attention for a foot wound as soon as possible. Recognizing the signs of a foot wound and doing a daily self-check of your feet can help you prevent severe complications. Some tips for prevention include:
- Have a podiatrist check your feet at least once a year
- Check your feet everyday. Look between your toes and report any cuts, bruises or discolorations to your Podiatrist
- Wash your feet everyday
- Keep your feet soft and smooth
- Check with a podiatrist about the best way to trim your toenails and to care for corns and calluses
- Do NOT walk barefoot
- Protect your feet from hot and cold
- Keep the blood in your feet flowing
- Maintain a healthy diet to help keep blood sugar under control
If you suspect you have an infected foot wound, contact your doctor immediately, as treatment, such as antibiotics, may be necessary for proper recovery and healing. Signs of an ulceration that needs immediate treatment are increased pain or tenderness around the site of the injury, pus or drainage oozing from the wound, warm to the touch, foul odor from the wound.
Because a foot wound can take a few weeks or months to heal completely, your podiatrist will determine the best course of treatment during the healing process. Treatment may consist of the following:
- Washing and covering the wound
- Applying topical treatments and ointments
- Taking medication such as antibiotics
- Debriding the wound to remove dead tissue or debris from the wound
- Using therapy to improve blood flow
- Referral to Vascular, Endocrinology, and Infectious Disease