If you have a condition such as diabetes, you are at a higher risk of developing foot ulcers. This is due to high blood sugar levels over a long period of time. Doing a daily check of your feet is an essential part of diabetes management. Prevention is necessary in order to catch any wounds early before they progress and cause further complications such as infection or amputation.
Diabetes and Foot Ulcers
An ulcer on the foot can result from a cut, blister, or scrape. If you have a condition such as diabetes, you are at a higher risk of developing foot ulcers. Unlike other wounds that can heal on their own, a diabetic foot ulcer does not heal properly due to factors such as poor circulation or nerve damage. The wound can become infected, and the infection can spread into the deeper layers of the skin. Some complications that can happen from an untreated foot ulcer are abscesses, bone infections, and gangrene.
Causes of Diabetic Foot Wounds
Foot wounds such as ulcers can develop in anyone who has diabetes. Being diabetic puts you at a higher risk for developing foot ulcers and other foot conditions. There are several causes of diabetic foot wounds, such as:
- Being overweight
- Using tobacco and alcohol
- Having poor circulation
- Wearing shoes that cause irritation or put pressure on the foot
- Not wearing socks to protect the feet
- Having a trauma or injury to the foot
- Having neuropathy which causes a loss of sensation to the feet
- Having a foot deformity such as a bunion or hammertoe
Common Diabetic Wound Symptoms
Wounds can happen to any part of the body, but those with diabetes are prone to developing wounds such as ulcers or blisters on their feet. Diabetics need to be aware of the symptoms in order to prevent the wounds from progressing and causing complications. A daily check of the feet is essential. Some common symptoms of diabetic foot wounds are:
- Foot drainage that is staining your socks or shoes
- Black tissue around the wound
- Foul-smelling odor
- Callus around the wound
In addition, any pain or discomfort can also indicate that you are developing a foot ulcer or other wound on your foot.
Treatment Options for Diabetic Wounds
The earlier you can treat a diabetic wound, the better the chances are that it will heal properly. Consult with a podiatrist at the first sign of a foot ulcer to have it examined and checked for infection. A podiatrist will recommend the appropriate treatment for the type of foot wound you have. Treatment options for a diabetic foot ulcer can include:
- Medication. Medication such as an antibiotic ointment can be put on the wound, and then a dressing may be applied. If the wound is infected, a course of antibiotics may be prescribed.
- Padding. To take pressure off of the wound and to help keep it protected, padding may be used over and around the ulcer.
- Cleaning. The wound should be kept as clean and dry as possible. Washing the wound daily is important to prevent infection and help in healing.
- Debridement. Debridement is the removal of dead skin and tissue that has formed around the wound. A podiatrist uses a sharp tool to debride the wound to speed up the healing process.
- High-tech wound care products. When conservative treatments fail, we may recommend an amniotic product made of the human placenta, such as EpiFix, to help close the wound, prevent infection, and promote healing. We have had great success with these products, and they often help our patients avoid surgery.
- Brace or cast. A brace or cast may be worn to take pressure off of the foot in order to give the wound a chance to heal.
- Crutches. Crutches or other aides may be used to help keep pressure off the foot while walking.
- Hospitalization. If the foot ulcer is severe or has become infected, and you are at risk of the infection spreading, hospitalization may be an option.
- Surgery. If conservative treatment for the foot wound has not proven effective, surgery may be an option to consider. There are several surgical procedures that can be done, such as shaving or removing bones, or surgery to correct a deformity of the foot such as bunions or hammertoes, which can cause a foot ulcer.
In addition, there are several factors that can play a role in healing and fighting off an infection in your feet, such as:
- Blood sugar. Controlling your blood sugar is important when healing and fighting an infection. High blood sugar can make it hard for your body to fight the infection.
- Diet. Maintaining a healthy diet can help with healing.
- Circulation. If you have poor circulation, it can cause slow healing or prevent healing of the wound.
Preventing Diabetic Foot Wounds
People with diabetes can take precautions to prevent foot wounds from developing. In addition to regular foot checks and visits to a podiatrist, you can do the following to help with prevention:
- Avoid walking barefoot
- Keep your blood sugar monitored and under control
- Seek medical attention if you have a foot wound that is not healing
A daily check of your feet is an important step in managing your diabetes. You can learn how to spot wounds or ulcers before they become a problem. You will want to check your feet, paying close attention to the soles and in between the toes, for issues such as:
- Blisters or ulcers
- Cuts or scrapes
- Any abnormalities or sudden changes in appearance
Not only should you check your feet daily, but you should have your feet checked regularly by a podiatrist or other health care provider. When at a provider’s office, always remove your shoes and socks so your feet can be examined.
Contact Us With Questions
If you have questions about diabetic wounds or are experiencing pain in your feet, Hermiston Family Foot Clinic can help. At your first appointment, we will create a custom treatment plan to meet your needs. To make an appointment, fill out our convenient contact form online or call our Hermiston, Oregon office at 541-567-8750.