The ideal goal of diabetic foot care is preventing severe problems from arising, whenever and however possible. This means steady attention against a consistent and often steadily progressing condition, but the benefits are more than worth the efforts.
That said, the situation is not always so easy to handle. Sometimes, even with vigilant attention and trying to do all the right things, injuries and complications still happen. Among the more serious of these is the development of a diabetic wound.
Diabetic foot wounds are common for a couple of big reasons, and not treating them with due diligence when they’re discovered can have enormous consequences.
A diabetic wound is something you should never attempt to handle yourself at home. It should always receive professional treatment. And we are absolutely not just saying that. Learning more about how diabetic wounds form and their potential consequences not only justifies why they need expert attention, but why it is important to prevent them whenever possible.
How Do Diabetic Wounds Form?
A diabetic wound (which you might also hear referred to as a diabetic ulcer) is an open sore anywhere on the body of an individual with diabetes. About 1 in 6 people with diabetes will have an ulcer at some point, with the feet and lower limbs being a frequent location for such an affliction.
What makes the feet a particular target for wounds? It has to do with limits in detection and healing.
The feet are the farthest part of us from our heart, making effective circulation there more of a challenge than it is to other parts of our bodies. The cells within the feet depend on blood flow nonetheless for general function and repair processes.
The effects of diabetes can interfere with circulation throughout the body, but this can specifically increase the challenge of receiving proper blood flow to the feet.
As circulation diminishes, so too does the capability of our body to swiftly deal with injuries. Cuts and other problems take longer to heal. In severe cases, they may not heal at all without intervention.
That in itself is bad, but diabetes can also interfere with our nerve function. This means it is more difficult for us to sense pain and problems in the feet. This means a cut on the foot may not be noticed at all. With reduced healing capabilities, someone may continue to walk on their injury, slowly but steadily opening the wound further, and eventually creating a full-blown ulcer.
The longer an ulcer exists without proper care, the higher the risk of it becoming infected. Infections can have very serious consequences; even so much as requiring a life-saving amputation.
We do not wish this to happen to anyone. Our practice specializes in wound care and limb salvage for this purpose, but also steady and thorough preventative care to avoid such a situation in the first place.
Treating Diabetic Wounds
Time is the most critical factor for treating diabetic wounds. If you have diabetes, never wait to notify us when you discover an injury on your feet of any type.
You should also take pressure off the area of the wound as much as possible. The more that weight is applied to the injury—such as by walking on it—the worse the injury can become, and the higher the risk for infection. Remember: it does not matter if you are feeling little or no pain; the damage and risks are still very real.
Depending on the condition of the injury, we will get you in to see one of our doctors as quickly as possible for a full evaluation and start of treatment.
We may begin by inspecting the wound for foreign materials, and removing them and dead skin from the site. This process is known as debridement, and helps significantly lower risks of infection.
If we do detect signs of infection, we will have to provide emergency care. We may need to take tissue samples to determine the type of infection, and/or x-rays or other imaging tests to see whether the infection has reached the bone.
The wound may need to be disinfected—by treating it with enzymes and/or antibacterial dressings—and strict orders for changing dressings and keeping off your feet will need to be followed.
Our goal will always be to preserve the foot and limb in every situation we are able to. In some severe cases, however, we must weigh the life of the patient against the salvation of the limb—and life will always win out.
Diabetic Foot Care When (and Before) You Need It
If you are living with diabetes, never wait to receive the care you need—and never wait to start the preventative care you can have!
Choices as simple as inspecting your feet daily, managing your blood sugar well, and investing in diabetic footwear can pay off in a future with fewer complications to your feet, helping you stay mobile and comfortable well down the road.
Schedule an appointment at any of our six area offices by calling (513) 728-4800. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have, and can also take questions via our online contact form.