Chippewa Falls, Wis. – 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 foot ulcers. 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.
Jessica Zingshiem with HSHS St. Joseph’s Center for Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine says ulcers most often develop on the ball of the foot or the bottom of the big toe.
“Treating these ulcers can be really challenging,” says Zingshiem. “Often, because of the numbness, patients continue to walk on the wound causing extensive damage which can lead to infection and the need for immediate medical care.”
If you are diagnosed with diabetes, taking care of your feet is very important, even if they feel fine.
- Wash your feet thoroughly every day and dry well between toes
- 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 recommend people with a foot ulcer, or even signs of a diabetic foot ulcer, contact a wound care specialist,” says Zingshiem. “We can provide several treatment options based on the severity of the ulcer; total contact casting, negative pressure wound therapy and hyperbaric oxygen treatment can be effective.”
These innovative services are available at the HSHS St. Joseph’s Center for Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine, which specializes in treatment of chronic and non-healing wounds. To schedule an appointment, please call (715) 717-7657.
For more information about diabetes foot complications, or November’s American Diabetes Month, visit the American Diabetes Association website.
About HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital
HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the Founding Institute, and it is an affiliate of Hospital Sisters Health System. Since 1885, it has served the people of the Chippewa Falls area with health care that is high tech and high touch. Known locally for the quality of the care it provides patients, the hospital has been recognized nationally for its outstanding patient satisfaction levels.
About Hospital Sisters Health System
Hospital Sisters Health System’s (HSHS) mission is to reveal and embody Christ’s healing love for all people through our high quality, Franciscan health care ministry. HSHS provides state-of-the-art health care to our patients and is dedicated to serving all people, especially the most vulnerable, at each of our physician practices and 15 local hospitals in two states - Illinois (Breese, Decatur, Effingham, Greenville, Highland, Litchfield, O’Fallon, Shelbyville and Springfield) and Wisconsin (Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Oconto Falls, Sheboygan, and two in Green Bay). HSHS is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, and Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the founding institute. For more information about HSHS, visit www.hshs.org. For more information about Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, visit www.hospitalsisters.org.