If left untreated, diabetic foot ulcers can cause permanent damage that affects your mobility.

Approximately 15% of people with diabetes suffer from foot ulcers, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). Knowing how to recognize diabetic foot ulcer symptoms is crucial, because untreated ulcers can lead to permanent disfigurement. APMA reports that diabetic wounds are the leading cause of non-traumatic lower extremity amputations in the United States. However, proper wound care can help reduce the chances of surgical intervention, infection, and foot deformation. The following information will help you recognize wound symptoms and find an effective diabetic foot ulcer treatment.

Causes

Neuropathy occurs when blood vessels supplying nerves with oxygen and nutrients are damaged. The feet of a person with diabetes are particularly susceptible to neuropathy because of insufficient blood flow and unchecked blood sugar. These conditions can destroy nerve cells and cause pain, tingling, and numbness.

People with diabetic neuropathy may lose enough sensation in their feet that they cannot feel the pain or the intense itching of foot injuries. Foot issues like ingrown toenails or dry skin cuts may go unnoticed unless you check your feet at least once a day for open wounds or other trauma. Diabetes also interferes with normal wound healing. Skin breaks on the feet are affected by diminished blood flow and the restriction of white blood cells that are needed to initiate the wound healing process.

Symptoms

Diabetic foot ulcers almost always form on the soles of the feet, where skin is subject to constant pressure. Under the weight of the body, skin deteriorates and eventually becomes an open sore. These ulcers frequently form underneath calluses and cannot be felt due to diabetic neuropathy. Signs of a foot ulcer include:

  • Swelling, discoloration, and warmth around the wound
  • Foul-smelling discharge seeping from the wound
  • Pain and firmness when the wound is touched
  • Callused or thickened skin surrounding the ulcer
  • Fever and chills in advanced stages of foot ulcers

Treatments

Unless treated promptly, diabetic foot ulcers may cause complications that include cellulitis, osteomyelitis (bone infections), and gangrene. Advanced foot ulcers often require wound debridement, a process that carefully removes dead tissue. Doctors perform debridement in various ways one of which is probing the wound to determine the size of the ulcer. Your doctor may also recommend at-home diabetic foot ulcer treatments that include:

  • Keeping the ulcer dry and covered with appropriate wound dressings
  • Maintaining proper blood glucose levels to facilitate healing
  • Cleaning the ulcer each day with appropriate topical ointments
  • Avoiding excessive walking on your ulcerated foot
  • Wearing loose-fitting shoes made of soft suede or leather with laces or Velcro fasteners
  • Wearing socks that contain extra padding for protection

Diabetic ulcers typically experience slow wound healing, but definite improvements should be seen within a week of beginning treatment. An ulcer that does not heal or becomes worse should be re-evaluated by a physician as soon as possible to prevent possible complications.

Advanced Tissue is the nation’s leader in delivering specialized wound care supplies to patients, delivering to both homes and long-term care facilities.