If you have diabetes, no injury is truly minor. That’s especially true for your feet, where tiny cuts and sores can quickly turn into open wounds and ulcers without careful treatment.
The problem is twofold. First, diabetes impairs circulation and therefore natural healing ability, meaning small sores are much more likely to grow and get infected. Second, diabetes impairs nerve function, meaning you may not even feel anything until it’s too late.
The consequences are dire—without treatment, infections can cause massive damage and even spread to bone, forcing amputation of a toe, foot, or even entire leg. With severe neglect, it could even mean death. Those with diabetes are 10 times more likely than others to face an amputation, and the sad truth is most of those cases are entirely preventable. That’s why it’s critical to see Harvey Danciger, DPM immediately as soon as you notice a foot ulcer.
The Goal of Treatment
When you come to our office, our main objective is simple—get you on the path to healing quickly so that the chance of infection is reduced as much as possible.
There are several steps to this process, including:
- Offloading, which simply means relieving pressure on the wound. You will most likely require a support boot and/or other aids, such as crutches or a wheelchair, for a period of time to prevent further damage.
- Debridement, or the extraction of dead skin and tissues from the wound and removing any foreign debris from the site.
- Medicating and dressing the ulcer to prevent infection.
After the wound has been cared for medically, you’ll need to continue caring for it at home to avoid infection or complications. This may include cleaning the wound and changing bandages daily, taking regular medications, avoiding putting any weight on the foot, and carefully regulating your blood glucose levels.
If the wound does become infected, you may need an additional regimen of antibiotics or hospitalization to control the problem before more severe consequences, such as amputation, become necessary.
Prevention Is Your Best Defense
Approximately 15 percent of Americans with diabetes experience an open sore on their feet related to their condition, but nearly all of those cases are preventable—and even if you do develop an ulcer, vigilant foot checks and not allowing wounds to fester can save you from the most severe consequences.
Because you can’t always rely on pain receptors to fire accurately, make sure to check your feet carefully every day if you have diabetes, including between the toes. Enlist the aid of a mirror or loved one if you need help. The second you notice an issue, seek help—don’t wait for a sore to spiral out of control.
Keep your feet from getting too wet or too dry, as both problems can lead to skin breakdowns. After you bathe, dry thoroughly (especially between the toes) and apply foot moisturizer. Keep an eye out for fungal infections, too, such as athlete’s foot or fungal toenails, and call Dr. Danciger if you notice them.
Choose a pair of shoes that is comfortable and supportive, and avoid high heels, pointy toe boxes, or restrictive socks—bad footwear is perhaps the No. 1 culprit of preventable foot sores. In some cases, orthotics or custom-made diabetic shoes may be appropriate.
Let us help you care for your diabetic wounds and avoid an amputation. Set up an appointment today at our Palm Desert, CA office by dialing 760-568-0108.