Ulcers and Wound Care
The feet are often on the front lines when it comes to interacting with the world, so it’s rarely a huge surprise to find a small nick or sore on them now and then. That’s not usually a problem. What can become a big problem, though, is when a condition such as diabetes prevents the wound from healing or even becoming noticed in the first place. That can pave the way for the development of foot ulcers and infections, and those can have serious consequences.
The Slow Danger of Diabetes
The effects of diabetes on the body can be legion, and the lower extremities are not immune. There are two symptoms of the disease in the feet that are especially troubling.
First is poorer circulation, which can be caused by damage and buildup of plaque along the artery walls. The feet, being far from the heart, can especially suffer the ill effects of this as they receive fewer nutrients and less nourishment from the blood. This can decrease the ability of the body to heal in this area, meaning wounds can last longer, or even never go away on their own at all.
Poor circulation also contributes to the gradual damage and death of nerves within the feet. This can cause feelings of tingling and pain, but also numbness and loss of sensation.
Together, these symptoms pack a dangerous combination. A wound that is slow to heal and remains unnoticed opens itself up to growing worse, especially if the victim continues to walk upon it. Deep, open ulcers can form on the foot, leaving one open to a serious infection. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, up to 24 percent of patients who develop a foot ulcer will need an amputation, and an ulcer is a factor in 85 percent of total amputations related to diabetes.
Warding Off Wounds
The good news in all of this is that complications from foot wounds are virtually preventable with proper diabetic foot care. When a problem is discovered early, professional wound care can get your feet on the path to healing and vastly reduce the risk of an infection.
Finding problems early, of course, means being on the lookout for them. That’s why it is extremely important for many people with diabetes to regularly inspect their feet for signs of damage. This can include cuts, scrapes, sores, corns, calluses, and discoloration. Make it a part of your routine, such as when you get out of the shower or just before slipping into bed. If something abnormal doesn’t go away in a day or two, give us a call at Alpine Foot & Ankle Clinic to let us know. It also makes sense to have your feet professionally examined at least once per year, just to make sure there aren’t any potential risks that have been missed.
When it comes to risks of developing sores and wounds, there are ways to protect yourself. Lifestyle changes including controlling diet, ending a smoking habit, and getting more exercise can fight back against the effects of diabetes. Factors that can contribute to the development of sores, such as an abnormal gait, bunions, or hammertoes can also be addressed with orthotics or changes in shoes to prevent friction-based sores from developing.
Dr. Gregg Neibauer and the staff of Alpine Foot and Ankle want to be in your corner when it comes to protecting your feet from diabetic wounds and other complications. Schedule an appointment at our Missoula office by calling (406) 721-4007 and let’s develop a plan to keep your feet safe on all fronts.