Having diabetes means taking special care of your feet, as you’re at an increased risk of complications that can lead to amputation. Reduced blood flow, nerve damage, and lack of sensation in your legs and feet is common in people with diabetes and makes it more difficult for you tell when you have an injury or infection that needs care.
Foot ulcers are a complication of diabetes and require immediate care. It’s natural to have some questions if you’ve developed a foot ulcer for the first time. Here are answers to common questions patients often have.
What is a diabetic foot ulcer?
Diabetic foot ulcers are a serious complication of uncontrolled or poorly-controlled diabetes. When your blood sugar remains high for a long time, it can damage your skin tissue and expose the vulnerable layers underneath.
The result is a crater-like open wound that typically forms on the balls of the feet and on top of the big toe. These painful sores are slow to heal and put you at risk for even more serious complications.
It’s important to come in to see Dr. Tagaloa-Tulifau for treatment immediately once you notice that you have a foot ulcer. Without treatment, a serious infection can set in that can lead to amputation. The good news is that most diabetic foot ulcers heal with the appropriate treatment.
What causes diabetic foot ulcers?
Diabetic neuropathy accounts for nearly 90% of foot ulcers in diabetic patients. Neuropathy is nerve damage caused by long-standing high blood sugar. The damage interferes with the sensory messages that travel from your nerve fibers to your brain. The decreased circulation and nerve damage paves the way for bacteria and a persistent open wound.
What is the treatment for my diabetic foot ulcer?
Taking pressure off the wound is the first step to managing diabetic foot ulcers. The pressure from walking can make the ulcer worse. You may need to stay off your feet or wear special shoes.
Not all ulcers are treated the same. Dr. Tagaloa-Tulifau assesses your ulcer and determines the best course of treatment. Depending on the results of the evaluation, she may prescribe antibiotics to help fight infection.
Treatment may also involve cutting away dead tissue and cleaning out your wound before applying a dressing to keep the ulcer protected. Depending on the severity of your ulcer, you may need the application of a skin substitute over the wound to help it close as quickly as possible.
How long will it take to heal?
The time it takes for your foot ulcer to heal depends on various factors, including how well blood circulates to the area, how deep the ulcer is,and whether you have other complications that slow wound healing.
If you have good circulation, your ulcer may heal within six weeks. It may take anywhere from three to five months to heal if the ulcer is deep or your circulation is poor.
How can I prevent diabetic foot ulcers from coming back?
Getting and keeping your blood sugar under control is the first step to preventing diabetic foot ulcers from returning. Other steps you can take include:
- Check your feet for sores daily
- Keep your feet clean and dry
- Wear comfortable, loose-fitting shoes
- Quit smoking
- Walk to increase your blood flow
Dr. Mafutaga Tagaloa-Tulifau is dedicated to helping patients with diabetes take good care of their feet. Call today to request an appointment, or use our simple online booking tool to schedule a day and time to have your foot ulcer treated.