The number of Americans with diabetes, most commonly type 2 diabetes, is growing more than ever before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The percentage of those diagnosed increases with age, but other risk factors for developing diabetes include diet, activity level, smoking and obesity.
One complication of diabetes is a foot ulcer. Nearly 25% of diabetics will develop a foot ulcer during their lifetime. As many as 40% of people with a healed ulcer will develop a new one within a year.
The development of a foot ulcer typically occurs in three stages:
- A callus forms as a result of neuropathy - damage to the nerves, causing pain and numbness.
- The skin dries out and becomes flakey as skin cells die.
- The callus progresses to a state of hemorrhage, then erodes to become an ulcer.
Patients with foot ulcers can also develop severe buildup of plaque, called atherosclerosis, of the small blood vessels in the legs and feet, leading to vascular complications. Because blood cannot reach the wound, healing is delayed which can lead to necrosis and gangrene.
Dawn Davee, RN, CPD, program director for HSHS St. Francis Hospital’s Wound Care Center, says ulcers most often develop on the ball of the foot or the bottom of the big toe.
“Treating diabetic foot ulcers can be very challenging,” says Davee. “Often, because of the numbness, patients unknowingly continue to walk on the wound causing extensive damage. This additional damage can lead to infection and the need for urgent medical care.”
If you are diagnosed with diabetes, taking care of your feet is very important, even if they feel fine.
- Wash your feet thorough every day
- Keep your toenails trimmed and filed with an emery board
- Check your feet daily for sores, cuts, blisters and/or redness; look between your toes
- Do not remove calluses or corns yourself
- Moisturize your feet, but avoid moisturizing between the toes
- Wear shoes that fit well; don’t walk around barefoot
Signs you may be developing a diabetic foot ulcer, include:
- A callus with bleeding beneath it
- A dark or bruised area of your foot
- Redness that does not go away
“We strongly urge those who have a foot ulcer or signs of a diabetic foot ulcer to contact a wound care specialist,” says Davee. “There are several treatment options we can offer based on the severity of the ulcer. For example, total contact casting and negative pressure wound therapy can be effective in aiding healing.”
Through a partnership with Healogics, the nation's pioneer and leader in wound management services HSHS St. Francis Hospital’s Wound Care Center offers specialized, comprehensive care of problem wounds, using the most up-to-date approaches in the science of wound care.
Patients can be seen with or without a physician’s referral. Anyone interested in learning more about the services offered at HSHS St. Francis Hospital’s Wound Care Center can call 217-324-8260.
For more information about diabetes foot complications, visit the American Diabetes Association website.