How Do You Know if You Have a Diabetic Foot Ulcer?
A foot ulcer is an open sore or wound commonly located on the bottom of the foot. It occurs in approximately 15 percent of patients with diabetes. Of those who develop a foot ulcer, 6 percent will be hospitalized due to infection or other ulcer-related complications. People with type 2 diabetes often have a harder time fighting off infections from ulcers.
The best way to avoid severe ulcer-related problems is to have a podiatrist treat it as soon as possible. Contact the St. Louis podiatrists at Missouri Foot and Ankle for excellent care and treatment.
What Foot Ulcers Look Like
Foot ulcers are red, round craters most commonly located on the bottom of the foot. A foot ulcer can look like a shallow crater on the skin’s surface or it can be very deep. In many cases, a border of thickened, callused skin may develop over time.
A severe deep foot ulcer may extend through the full thickness of the skin and could expose tendons, bones, and other deep structures.
Symptoms of diabetic foot ulcers may include:
Swelling, discoloration, and warmth around the wound
Pain and firmness when the wound is touched
Foul-smelling discharge seeping from the wound
A noticeable lump that can be painless
Fever and chills in advanced stages of foot ulcers
Causes of Diabetic Foot Ulcers
People with diabetes are more likely to develop foot ulcers because of high or fluctuating blood sugar levels and reduced nerve functions. Skin that would normally heal itself may not properly repair due to nerve damage. When the foot cannot heal, an ulcer can develop.
Even the smallest of circumstances, such as stepping on something, a cut or blister, or even wearing tight shoes can develop into a diabetic foot ulcer. Foot ulcers can be difficult to heal, especially since wounds typically heal slower in people with diabetes.
Common factors that cause diabetic foot ulcers are:
Poor blood circulation – When blood doesn’t flow to your feet efficiently, it is more difficult for ulcers to heal
High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) – High glucose levels slow down the healing process of an infected foot ulcer, so blood sugar management is critical
Nerve damage – This causes reduced sensitivity to foot pain and results in unknown wounds that can develop ulcers
Irritated or wounded feet – Diabetics commonly have dry skin, and their feet may be more prone to cracking, calluses, corns, and bleeding wounds
All people with diabetes are at risk for developing foot ulcers, but these factors can increase that risk:
“Off-loading” (staying off your feet to prevent the ulcer from expanding due to pressure on the ulcer)
Debridement (removing diseased, dead, or callused skin and tissue)
Applying medication or a dressing containing silver
Wearing diabetic shoes or casts
Foot Ulcer Surgical Treatment
In cases when ulcers do not respond to more conservative therapy, surgery may be required. Our surgeons can alleviate pressure around your ulcer by shaving down the bone or removing foot deformities such as bunions or hammertoes. It is extremely important that an infected foot ulcer is properly managed. Surgery can prevent your ulcer from becoming worse or leading to amputation.
Diabetic Foot Ulcer Prevention
The best way to prevent foot ulcers is to make a serious effort to prevent wounds. Avoid walking barefoot, even inside your home. If any foot injury occurs that you believe is minor, have a skilled podiatrist handle it because the issue can easily develop into an ulcer.
These strategies may help prevent foot ulcers:
Thoroughly examine your feet daily to check for rubbed areas, cracks, or calluses
Use a mirror to check the heel and sole
If your vision is not good, ask a relative or caregiver to examine your foot for you
Practice good foot hygiene
Wash your feet every day using mild soap and warm water
Dry thoroughly, especially between your toes
Moisturize dry areas, but do not put lotion between your toes
Wear shoes that fit well
Wear shoe inserts to prevent corns and calluses
Wear soft, absorbent socks
Change your socks immediately if they become wet or sweaty
Trim your toenails straight across
How to Prevent A Foot Ulcer From Becoming Infected
If you develop a sore on your foot, see a doctor right away because the likelihood of infection increases the longer you wait. Even small foot ulcers can become infected and lead to more serious complications that can result in amputation.
Foot ulcer infection can be prevented with:
Maintaining proper blood glucose levels to facilitate healing
Disinfecting the skin around an ulcer
Frequent dressing changes to keep the ulcer dry
Contact a Podiatrist for Diabetic Foot Ulcer Treatment
When caught early, foot ulcers are treatable. Have the doctors at Missouri Foot and Ankle examine your foot to develop the right treatment program for your diabetic foot ulcer. Contact us today!