By Dr. Neeta Shah, Diabetology
Common complications caused by diabetes include poor blood circulation and nerve damage. These issues may make the feet prone to skin sores or ulcers which are difficult to treat, and tend to worsen faster. But with proper foot care and management techniques, these foot ulcers can be kept under check. Any kind of non-healing ulcer that wreaks damage to bones and tissues requires surgical amputation (removal) of a foot, toe or part of a leg.
Anyone who has diabetes can develop a foot ulcer. People who use insulin are at higher risk of developing a foot ulcer, as are patients with diabetes-related kidney, eye, and heart disease. Being overweight and using alcohol and tobacco also play a role in the development of foot ulcers.
Ulcers form due to a combination of factors, such as lack of feeling in the foot, poor circulation, foot deformities, irritation (such as friction or pressure), and trauma, as well as duration of diabetes. Patients who have diabetes for many years can develop neuropathy, a reduced or complete lack of ability to feel pain in the feet due to nerve damage caused by elevated blood glucose levels over time.
Vascular disease can complicate a foot ulcer, reducing the body’s ability to heal and increasing the risk for an infection. Elevations in blood glucose can reduce the body’s ability to fight off a potential infection and also slow healing.
How to prevent foot ulcers?
- Try out diabetes management methods such as a healthy diet, blood sugar monitoring, medication and physical exercises.
- Inspect your feet once a day for cracks, cuts or blisters.
- Rinse your feet thoroughly with lukewarm water and then pat them dry gently.
- Never use nail clippers or scissors by yourself on the callused region to remove them.
- Trim your toenails with care or ask for assistance if you are unable to do it on your own.
- To avoid injury, do not go out bare-footed, even around your house.
- Refrain from smoking as smoking impairs blood circulation and lowers the amount of oxygen in your blood resulting in poor healing of wound.
- Get your feet examined from a doctor or a podiatrist for early signs of foot problems, poor circulation or nerve damage.
- Consult your doctor if your foot doesn’t heal over a certain period of time.
Treatment for Foot Ulcers-
Treatment for foot ulcers varies with the gravity of the wound. Off loading of foot ulcers is required for healing which can be done by customized foot wear, or cast, etc. General treatment includes removal of dead tissues or debris to keep the wound clean for better healing. But when the condition has evolved into the stage of a life-threatening infection or gives way to severe loss of tissues, then amputation becomes the means of last resort.