Diabetic Foot Ulcer 101
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, diabetic foot ulcers affect approximately 15 percent of people with diabetes. It is estimated that 14-24 percent of diabetic foot ulcers end with amputation.
What’s that Sore?
Do you have a sore on your foot that’s been there for a while without improving? If you have diabetes, chances are you’ve developed a diabetic ulcer. In that case, it’s important to understand what the ulcer is, what caused it, what risks it presents and how you can treat it.
What’s a diabetic ulcer?
Diabetic Foot Ulcers are open sores on the feet from the ankle down. Most ulcers develop on the bottom of your feet, particularly under your big toe or the ball of your foot. Typically, ulcers begin with foot injuries, such as cuts or blisters. These wounds can linger for weeks without improvement and may lead to the need for amputation.
Who’s at risk?
Some individuals face a higher ulcer risk. Native-American, African-American and Hispanic patients are more likely to develop ulcers, as are men and patients over 60. Additionally, individuals with vision problems, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and obesity experience greater risk. Heart disease and high blood sugar also impede your body’s ability to heal and fight infection.
Some behaviors also make foot ulcers more likely to develop. Alcohol consumption, poorly-trimmed toenails, tobacco use, poor hygiene and wearing poorly-fitted shoes (those without enough cushioning or room for your toes) can promote ulcer formation.
What causes ulcers?
In addition to high blood pressure and injury, there are other causes of ulcer development and poor healing. Nearly 45 percent of ulcers occur in people with both of these conditions:
- Diabetic Neuropathy: This common complication involves nerve damage in your feet, frequently leading to total sensation loss. This makes it harder for you to notice any scrapes, cracks or blisters.
- Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD): This condition blocks arteries in your legs, strictly limiting blood flow. Without proper circulation, your body can’t get enough oxygen to the wound for healing.
Are ulcers life-threatening?
They can be. Without treatment, infectious bacteria can damage and kill your skin and tissues. It can also infect your blood stream or cause a bone infection (osteomyelitis), both of which can lead to sepsis. If you have PAD, an untreated ulcer can also lead to ischemia where tissue dies and becomes gangrene, potentially leading to death.
What can you do?
Monitor your feet daily for any injuries or changes and seek treatment as soon as possible. Waiting drastically reduces your chances to heal.
St. James Wound Care Center, a department of St. James Parish Hospital, is conveniently located in Lutcher inside the medical plaza next to St. James Parish Hospital. The friendly team at St. James Wound Care Center are experts at managing hard to heal, chronic wounds. To schedule an appointment or make a referral, call 877.295.2273.
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