Foot ulcers are a common reality for diabetic patients, with the American Podiatric Medical Association estimating that the wound occurs in at least 15 percent of patients with diabetes. It’s important for these patients and their caregivers to understand how to identify this type of wound so they can prevent it from getting worse.

Here’s how to identify and classify a diabetic foot ulcer:

diabetic foot woundDiabetic foot ulcers occur on the bottom of toes and feet.

What is a diabetic foot ulcer?

Forming under big toes and foot beds, diabetic ulcers are wounds that occur when the skin tissue breaks down and leaves the underlying layers vulnerable to infection. Ulcers are common in diabetic patients because they often suffer from high blood sugar, poor circulation and nerve damage.

According to a statistical analysis published in the International Journal of Orthopaedics Sciences, diabetic foot ulcers affect males more often than females, and patients in their forties and fifties tend to develop the wounds more frequently than other age groups.

Identifying the signs of a diabetic foot ulcer

The sooner you identify an ulcer, the more likely you are to avoid infection and other serious complications, including amputation in the worst-case scenarios. Healthline noted that one of the first indicators of ulcer development is drainage that you may notice on your sock or in your shoes. Other signs of a diabetic foot ulcer are:

  • Unusual swelling or odors.
  • Skin irritation.
  • Redness.
  • Pain.
  • Numbness.
  • Black or dead tissue surrounding the affected area.

Talk to your doctor as soon as you notice any of these signs.

Understanding the Wagner ulcer classification scale

There are a few ulcer classification systems, all of which identify wound depth, skin condition and presence of infection. Many medical professionals use the Wagner classification system to assess patient ulcers, assigning the wound a grade and selecting the appropriate treatment method.

Grade Foot at risk Prevention/Treatment
Grade I Localized, superficial ulcer Antibiotics and glycemic control
Grade II Ulcer extends into bone, ligament or joint Debridement, antibiotics and glycemic control
Grade III Deep ulcer with osteomyelitis, or abscess Debridement and potentially some form of amputation
Grade IV Dead tissue on toes or foot Wide debridement and amputation
Grade V Dead tissue on entire foot Below knee amputation

If you develop a diabetic foot ulcer, following your treatment plan carefully is vital to preventing complications and promoting faster healing. Talk to your doctor about smartPAC by Advanced Tissue, which is a smarter way to get your wound care supplies delivered straight to your front door.