How to Prevent Diabetic Foot Ulcers - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on January 12, 2018

How to Prevent Diabetic Foot Ulcers

Diabetic Foot Ulcers Can Be PreventedPeople with diabetes often hear how it important monitoring is for their condition. It’s important to keep eye on their blood sugar or what they eat to stay safe and healthy. Monitoring is also recommended for certain symptoms of diabetes that can have serious complications if not treated.

“Diabetic foot ulcers are the leading cause of diabetic-related amputations. These ulcers can form due to any number of factors and anyone with diabetes can develop them. The good news is they are preventable in many cases,” says Christopher Barrett, D.P.M., CWS, program director of the Crozer-Keystone Centers for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine.

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, diabetes is leading cause of non-traumatic lower extremity amputations in the U.S. Understanding the causes and how to prevent diabetic foot ulcers can help with avoiding amputation.

What is a Diabetic Foot Ulcer?

A diabetic foot ulcer is an open sore or wound that forms when skin tissue breaks down and exposes the layers underneath. It is a common complication of poorly controlled diabetes. They typically occur under the big toes and balls of the feet.

“Anyone with diabetes can develop foot ulcers, but some may be at higher risk than others,” Barrett says. “Those of Native American, African-American or Hispanic descent are at a greater risk for these ulcers. Older men, people who use insulin, and those with kidney, eye or heart disease related to diabetes are also at a greater risk.”

What Causes Them?

Some common causes of diabetic foot ulcers include poor circulation, high blood sugar or hyperglycemia, foot deformities and/or nerve damage.

Ulcers can also form if a person has had diabetes for many years and develops neuropathy. Neuropathy is a condition caused by long-term elevated blood glucose levels. With this condition, there is a reduced or lack of feeling pain in the feet. This type of nerve damage can often happen without the person realizing it or experiencing any type of pain when it happens. A doctor can easily test and diagnose this condition if you think you might have it.

Tips for Prevention

Preventing this type of foot ulcer can be simpler than you think. A good first step is to visit with your podiatrist or health care provider and discuss your risk of foot ulcers.

“Your healthcare provider should perform a full foot exam at least once a year. More visits may be needed depending on your condition,” Barrett says. “At one of these appointments, your doctor can evaluate your risk for foot ulcers or wounds and offer specific strategies for prevention.”

Ways to prevent foot ulcers include reducing drinking alcohol, smoking, high cholesterol and elevated blood sugar. It’s also important to check your feet every day to catch any problems early. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, no matter how small, see your doctor as soon as possible. Check your soles and toes especially for any abnormalities like redness, cuts, blisters and ulcers.

“It’s important to monitor and be aware of anything out of the ordinary on your feet. The goal of treating foot ulcers once they happen is to heal them as soon as possible to avoid infection. Infected ulcers can be harder to treat and lead to serious complications. Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to this type of ulcer,” Barrett says.

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