Diabetes and Diabetic Foot Ulcers - What to Know and How to Prevent Them

By: Todd Quincy
TriHealth Advanced Wound Care Centers

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 30 million people in the United States (nine percent of the population) have diabetes, including 7 million who are unaware they are living with the disease. The percentage of adults with diabetes increases with age, reaching a high of 25 percent among those aged 65 years or older, according to the Amputee Coalition. In addition to age, risk factors for diabetes also include diet, activity level, obesity and heredity.

Diabetes may be accompanied by other co-existing conditions such as blindness, heart disease, kidney failure or lower-limb amputation.

High blood sugar levels, poor circulation, immune systems issues, nerve damage and infection may contribute to a non-healing diabetic foot ulcer. Four to 10 percent of people living with diabetes will develop a foot ulcer. An estimated 15 percent of people with foot ulcers will experience a major amputation. Even more alarming, people with an amputation have a 50 percent mortality rate within five years.

There are several common factors of diabetic foot ulcers including neuropathy, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), deformities and Charcot foot. Neuropathy is a result of damage to peripheral nerves and often causes weakness, numbness and pain in hands and feet. Similarly, PAD is caused by narrowed arteries which reduces blood flow to the limbs. Charcot foot is a deformity that results from nerve damage in the foot or ankle, which may cause injuries to go untreated, leading to the breakdown of joints.

 The TriHealth Advanced Wound Healing Centers at Bethesda North Hospital and Good Samaritan Hospital  recommend the following to help prevent diabetic foot ulcers:

  • Stop smoking immediately
  • Comprehensive foot examinations each time you visit your healthcare provider (at least four times a year)
  • Daily self-inspections of the feet, or have a family member perform the inspection
  • Regular care of the feet including cleaning toenails and taking care of corns and calluses
  • Choose supportive, proper footwear (shoes and socks)
  • Take steps to improve circulation such as eating healthier and exercising on a regular basis

Proper wound care techniques are imperative to healing diabetic foot ulcers. Debridement, Offloading or Total Contact Casts (TCC), Negative Pressure Wound Therapy and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) are a few of the leading-edge treatments offered at our Wound Care Center®. Debridement, the removal of damaged tissue, is widely recognized as one of the most important methods of advanced wound care. Total Contact Casting, also known as off-loading, relieves pressure from the wound and is considered the gold standard for the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers. Finally, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is where a patient receives 100 percent oxygen and an increased atmospheric pressure inside an acrylic chamber. These specialized wound care therapies can aid in wound closure, new tissue growth, wound tissue regeneration and much more. 

For more information about diabetic foot ulcers or how we may be able to help avoid amputation, contact the TriHealth Advanced Wound Healing Centers at Bethesda North Hospital at 513 865 5050 or at Good Samaritan Hospital at 513 862 5050.

Tags: Diabetes, Health Tips, Wellness and Fitness

Last Updated: November 17, 2017