Diabetes - foot ulcers
If you have diabetes, you have an increased chance of developing foot sores, or ulcers, also called diabetic ulcers.
Foot ulcers are a common reason for hospital stays for people with diabetes. It may take weeks or even several months for foot ulcers to heal. Diabetic ulcers are often painless.
Whether or not you have a foot ulcer, you will need to learn more about taking care of your feet.
Diabetic foot ulcer; Ulcer - foot
What to Expect at Home
Diabetes can damage the nerves and blood vessels in your feet. This damage can cause numbness and reduce feeling in your feet. As a result, your feet may not heal well if they are injured. If you get a blister, you may not notice and it may get worse.
If you have developed an ulcer, follow your health care provider's instructions on how to treat the ulcer. Also follow instructions on how to take care of your feet to prevent ulcers in the future. Use the information below as a reminder.
One way to treat an ulcer is debridement. This treatment removes dead skin and tissue. A provider, such as a podiatrist, will need to do this to be able to see your foot ulcer. There are many ways to do this. One way is to use a scalpel and special scissors.
Other ways the provider may use to remove dead or infected tissue are:
Taking Pressure Off Your Foot Ulcer
Foot ulcers are partly caused by too much pressure on one part of your foot.
Your provider may ask you to wear special shoes, or a brace or a special cast. You may need to use a wheelchair or crutches until the ulcer has healed. These devices will take the pressure off of the ulcer area. This will help speed healing.
Be sure to wear shoes that do not put a lot of pressure on only one part of your foot.
Wound Care and Dressings
Care for your wound as instructed by your provider. You'll likely be told to:
Your provider may use different kinds of dressings to treat your ulcer.
Wet-to-dry dressings are often used first. This process involves applying a wet dressing to your wound. As the dressing dries, it absorbs wound material. When the dressing is removed, some of the tissue comes off with it.
Other types of dressings are:
Keep your dressing and the skin around it dry. Try not to get healthy tissue around your wound too wet from your dressings. This can soften the healthy tissue and cause more foot problems.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your provider if you have any of these signs and symptoms of infection:
Also call if your foot ulcer is very white, blue, or black.
American Diabetes Association. 10. Microvascular complications and foot care: standards of medical care in diabetes-2018. Diabetes Care. 2018;41(Suppl1):S105-S118. PMID: 29222381 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29222381.
Kalish J, Pomposelli FB. Diabetic foot and vascular complications. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 55.
Kim PJ, Steinberg JS. Complications of the diabetic foot. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2013;42(4):833-847. PMID: 24286952 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24286952.
Review Date: 5/17/2018
Reviewed By: Brent Wisse, MD, board certified in Metabolism/Endocrinology, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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