If you suffer from diabetes understanding the causes and symptoms of a diabetic foot ulcer can prevent long term wound care treatment, hospitalization, or non-traumatic lower extremity amputation. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, an estimated 15% of diabetics experience a diabetic foot ulcer, which is an open sore likely found on the bottom of your foot.1
Why do foot ulcers form?
There are several factors that can lead to diabetic foot ulcers such as poor circulation, lack of feeling due to neuropathy, foot deformities (bunions), and irritation from pressure or friction. Neuropathy develops in individuals who have diabetes for many years. Overtime in diabetics, the elevated blood glucose levels cause the neuropathy or nerve damage, resulting in either little or no ability to feel foot pain. A healthy lifestyle is important for patients with diabetes since using alcohol and tobacco or being an unhealthy weight contribute to likelihood of developing foot ulcers.1
What are the symptoms of diabetic foot ulcers?
Pain is not a common symptom of foot ulcer since most individuals with these ulcers have reduced or no feeling from neuropathy. A common first symptom is drainage from the ulcer (exudate) that is visible on your sock. Redness and swelling of your feet are other indications an ulcer is forming. Odor is a severe symptom that an ulcer has advanced significantly.
What should I do if symptoms are present?
Seek a podiatrist immediately if you have any diabetic ulcer symptoms. It is imperative to begin healing an ulcer as soon as possible to reduce the risk of infection. Delays in treatment can lead to infection and non-traumatic foot amputations.
What are my treatment options?
- Prevent infection – keep the ulcer covered and moist
- Off-loading – keep pressure off the foot by using special foot gear
- Debridement – remove dead skin and tissue
- Apply medication or dressings
- Manage blood glucose levels
How can I reduce my risk for diabetic ulcers?
- See a podiatrist regularly
- Perform high risk assessment
- Wear appropriate shoes and socks