Diabetic foot ulcers are the most common reason for hospital stays among people with diabetes.
What’s the reason? “People with diabetes, not only do they not heal [as well as] non-diabetics, but in addition to that, they develop a disease called diabetic neuropathy, where they lose feeling in their feet,” says Arti Masturzo MD, medical director at the Bethesda North Wound Care Center.
However, with the proper precautions, Dr. Masturzo says diabetic foot ulcers can be avoided.
Tip #1: Check Your Feet Daily
Touch and inspect the skin on your feet and lower legs each day to watch for any scrapes, bruises or swelling.
On the other hand, remove or rearrange household items that could cause you to trip or fall. Similarly, if you do frequently bump into furniture with the same part of the body, protect that part of the skin with a wrap or brace.
Tip #2: Don’t Walk Around Barefoot
This is especially important for people who have diabetic neuropathy, which is nerve damage in the body that develops from high blood sugar levels caused by diabetes. “I’ve had patients step on needles and hard objects, [or have] metals impregnated into their foot, and they’ll never know,” Dr. Masturzo points out.
Tip #3: Wear Shoes That Fit Properly
"Don't just go out and buy random shoes," she warns. Wearing shoes that are ill-fitting or put a lot of pressure on your foot may result in a pressure ulcer. If you don't know your correct shoe size, have a professional assist you.
You should also steer clear of shoes with pointed or open toes, such as high heels, flip-flops or sandals. Also, wear shoes made of breathable fabrics, like canvas, leather or suede.
Tip #4: Get the Right Nutrients
Eating a well-balanced diet, high in lean protein, fiber and legumes, and low in saturated fats, can be very beneficial for diabetic patients. Many minerals and vitamins, for instance, zinc, iron, copper and protein, are necessary for the body to grow tissue. “If you’re deficient in those products, you can imagine that healing is going to be a lot slower,” she explains.
Tip #5: Suspicious? See Your Doctor
If you are experiencing abnormal symptoms that are causing any concern, Dr. Masturzo says to call your doctor immediately or go to the emergency department. Warning signs may include:
- Pus coming out of a wound
- Redness or heat in the foot
- Severe pain