Approximately 15 percent of diabetic patients develop foot ulcers, and of those who do, 6 percent are hospitalized due to complications, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association.  Foot ulcers also occur before 85 percent of diabetes-related amputations. Considering diabetic patients are so susceptible to foot ulcers, it’s important for them to understand how to care for and prevent these wounds.

Here’s your quick guide to diabetic foot ulcer treatment and prevention:

patient with foot ulcer woundPatients with diabetes are especially prone to foot ulcers.

What is a diabetic foot ulcer?

Especially common in patients with poorly managed diabetes, foot ulcers form when skin tissue breaks down and exposes underlying layers. These open wounds typically develop under big toes and on the balls or sides of feet. In addition to poor diabetes management, factors such as neuropathy or nerve damage, foot deformities, friction, pressure and trauma can lead to ulcer formation.

How do you treat a diabetic foot ulcer?

The APMA advised seeking medical care as soon as an ulcer is noticed. When caught early, diabetic foot ulcers are treatable and have a lower risk of infection or amputation from severe complications.

The first step in diabetic foot ulcer treatment is “off-loading,” which means staying off your feet to avoid the pressure that can cause pain and infection. Depending on the severity of the wound, the doctor may choose to remove the ulcer with a debridement technique or via surgical means.

Can you prevent diabetic foot ulcers?

Anyone with diabetes is vulnerable to foot ulcers, but they can be prevented with mindful foot care. For starters, patients should keep their diabetes under control. According to the Cleveland Clinic, uncontrolled blood sugar levels can increase risk of ulcer formation and normal glucose levels can help sores heal faster when they do occur.

Patients should also perform daily foot inspections to catch potential ulcers as soon as possible. Other methods for preventing diabetic foot problems like ulcers include:

  • Cleaning and moisturizing feet on a daily basis.
  • Trimming toenails regularly.
  • Changing socks frequently.
  • Wearing diabetic shoes and compression socks.
  • Scheduling regular check-ups with a podiatrist.

When a diabetic foot ulcer develops, patients should be careful to avoid infection. Healthline advised preventing infection with proper and frequent dressing changes, foot baths and enzyme treatments. The APMA further noted that keeping blood-glucose levels under control and avoiding walking barefoot can also prevent complications.

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