If you suffer from diabetes, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of diabetic foot ulcers. Diabetic foot ulcers can affect anyone who has diabetes, however foot ulcers are most common among those who have trouble controlling their illness.
Diabetic foot ulcers are caused when the skin tissue breaks down leaving the exposed layers of skin underneath vulnerable to infection. Ulcers commonly form under the big toes and on the balls of the feet. In some cases, ulcers can also affect the bones in the feet. Foot care for diabetics is extremely vital to ensure the health of the feet. Fortunately, with good care, foot ulcers can be prevented.
It is important to discuss any pain or tissue damage immediately with your doctor to ensure foot ulcers do not cause any major damage. Neglecting to treat foot ulcers can result in amputation. Don’t let foot ulcers destroy your feet. Read Save your Feet! Why Diabetic Foot Ulcers Need Quick Care to help identify if you or a loved one are suffering from early signs of diabetic foot ulcers.
Symptoms of Foot Ulcers
There are many ways to identify early symptoms of foot ulcers. One of the more common symptoms that people will experience is stains in the socks or in the shoes. Swelling, irritation, redness, and odours are also indications that you may have a foot ulcer.
Another common symptom is black tissue (referred to as eschar) that surrounds the ulcer. The tissue surrounding the ulcer turns black because blood flow to the healthy tissue is obstructed. If left untreated, gangrene can form. Gangrene refers to tissue death caused by infections and poor blood circulation around an ulcer. Gangrene symptoms cause odorous discharge, pain and severe numbness.
In some situations, symptoms are not always prevalent, leading to infections in the feet. If you are worried that you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms, speak with your healthcare provider immediately, especially if black skin tissue is visible or pain is bothersome. It may help save your feet. The seriousness of the ulcer will determine the treatment plan.
Causes of Diabetic Foot Ulcers and Pain
Foot care for diabetics is very important to the overall health of your feet and daily life. Diabetic ulcers can form from a variety of causes. Poor circulation, high blood sugar, nerve damage and wounds on the feet can cause diabetic foot ulcers.
Weak circulation is a form of vascular disease that develops when the blood flow to your feet is hindered. Poor circulation is a common cause of foot ulcers because it hinders the healing process. Other factors include high glucose levels, making blood sugar management vital to the health of the feet.
If left untreated, ulcers can lead to nerve damage that can result in a loss of feeling in the feet. Nerve damage typically begins with tingling or pain in the feet, eventually manifesting into painful wounds that commonly cause diabetic foot ulcers. In many cases, your healthcare professional can identify foot ulcers from drainage seeping from the infected area. Dry skin is also a common symptom for diabetic sufferers, which can lead to the skin on the feet cracking, causing callouses, corns and bleeding wounds.
Risk Factors for Diabetic Foot Ulcers
Everyone who has been diagnosed with diabetes is at risk for developing foot ulcers. Foot ulcers can develop from multiple causes, however there are some risk factors that can increase the chances of developing foot ulcers.
These risks include:
- Poor quality shoes and shoes that offer an inadequate fit
- Neglecting personal hygiene i.e. not washing the feet often
- Trimming toenails too short or neglecting to properly trim toenails
- High levels of alcohol consumption
- Eye disease caused by diabetes
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Use of tobacco products (because tobacco inhibits blood circulation)
Treatment for Diabetic Foot Ulcers
The most common form of treatment for diabetic foot ulcers is staying off the feet! Doctors will typically refer to this type of treatment as “off-loading” because staying off the feet prevents pain and ulcers. The pressure that is placed on the feet from walking can make ulcers worse and expand. For those who are overweight, the added pressure on the feet can cause more serious issues and be the cause of ongoing pain.
Some of the more common treatment options for diabetic ulcers include;
- Prescription diabetic shoes
- Foot braces
- Compression wraps
- Shoe inserts that can help prevent corns and callouses
- Debridement–a treatment used by doctors to remove the dead skin, foreign objects or infected skin tissue that caused the ulcer
Serious complications can occur when a foot ulcer is left untreated. Seeking immediate help from your care provider is the best way to heal and address diabetic foot ulcers. In some cases, your doctor may send tissue samples for testing to determine if antibiotics will help. For more serious infections, X-rays may be done to determine if bone infections are prevalent as well.
Infections and foot ulcers can be prevented by doing regular foot baths, disinfecting the skin around the ulcer, keeping the skin dry by changing dressings often, enzyme treatments, and using dressings that contain calcium alginates to deter bacterial growth.
The worst-case scenario for untreated foot ulcers is amputation. However, foot ulcers can be prevented with the right care and treatment. Utilizing preventative care techniques can help those who suffer from diabetes and are at risk for developing foot ulcers. Visit with the professional team at Step by Step today for more information about how we can help save your feet!