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What to Know About Diabetic Foot Ulcers
Diabetic foot ulcers are a very serious health issue. These ulcers are a potential complication of diabetes and typically occur on the bottom of a person’s foot. They look and behave like open sores or wounds and can easily become infected without proper treatment.
What to know about diabetic foot ulcers
If an infection develops around a diabetic foot ulcer, amputation of the foot is a very real possibility. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, 14-24% of diabetic patients who develop a diabetic foot ulcer will require an amputation. Fortunately, most diabetic foot ulcers can be prevented.
What causes a diabetic foot ulcer?
Diabetic foot ulcers can occur in any person with diabetes. However, there are a few factors that increase the likelihood that one will occur. Those with vascular disease or who have other issues, such as a foot deformity, may be at a greater risk of ulcers and infections. Insulin users and those with diabetes-related complications of the kidney or heart are also at a higher risk of ulcers.
Symptoms of a diabetic foot ulcer
Many diabetic patients have a decreased ability to feel pain. This means that the pain that may otherwise signal an oncoming ulcer might not be noticeable. Instead, the first useful symptom is usually drainage into the socks or swelling of the foot.
As the ulcer progresses, an odor may form. As soon as any symptoms are noticed, a doctor should be consulted immediately so they can address the potential ulcer.
If an ulcer forms, a doctor should be consulted immediately, preferably a podiatrist. Time is crucial with diabetic foot ulcers and treatment should never be delayed or ignored.
Swift treatment of a diabetic foot ulcer can prevent a dangerous infection from forming. Depending on the severity of the ulcer, a podiatrist may prescribe antibiotics and remove dead skin from the area.
After direct treatment has been applied, a doctor will focus on managing the underlying causes of the ulcer. This can include better management of blood glucose levels and a treatment called “off loading.” "Off loading" refers to removing pressure from the ulcer by prescribing special footwear–or even crutches or a wheelchair–to speed up healing.
Daily cleaning and bandaging is also a required part of treating a diabetic foot ulcer and should never be skipped or delayed. Certain ulcer dressing or skin substitutes may be applied to the ulcer.
Diabetic foot ulcers are a very dangerous condition and treatments may not always be effective. The best course of action is prevention for those at risk of developing diabetic foot ulcers.
Keeping a tight control on blood sugar levels and controlling diabetes symptoms like neuropathy and poor circulation is the best way to keep on top of ulcer prevention. Wearing sensible shoes and avoiding dangerous activities is also helpful in preventing ulcers from forming as a result of trauma to the foot.
Those at risk of developing a diabetic foot ulcer should get in the habit of checking their feet for abnormalities daily. Early detection is crucial to preventing infection and amputation.
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