Even people who have never had diabetes, or known someone with diabetes, know that amputation is one of the horrible side effects of this disease. Only 3% of the population of the US have diabetes, but diabetics account for more than half of lower extremity amputations.
Nerve damage and poor blood circulation are common complications of diabetes which make the feet particularly vulnerable to ulcers, infections and gangrene.Any sign of infection in the foot of a diabetic is considered an emergency. Proper foot care and diabetic management prevent ulcers from developing.
It is essential to seek medical attention if any of the following occur:
- Redness and swelling, plus increased warmth around a foot wound
- Extra drainage, pus and odor
- Fever or chills
- The area around the ulcer turns white, blue, or black.
- Unusual firmness around the wound
- Increased pain
If you have diabetes it is important to wear shoes that do not constrict blood flow, or trap moisture. Canvas, leather, or suede shoes are preferred over plastic or other non-porous materials.
Should an ulcer develop, there first thing to do is take pressure off the wound. You may need to wear special shoes, or possibly a brace or even a special cast. A wheelchair or crutches may be necessary for awhile. Anything that relieves pressure on the ulcer will speed up the healing process.
Treatments to remove dead or infected skin include using a whirlpool bath or wet to dry dressings. These are put on wet, and as the dressing dries, it pulls off dead tissue. Your doctor, or a nurse, may need to debride the area, cutting away dead tissue and skin and cleaning the wound well.
The idea of developing a foot ulcer is really scary, but you can greatly lessen the possibility by carefully managing your blood sugar and paying close attention to your feet.
If you are diabetic, your blood glucose levels are too high. One of the many effects this can have is damage to your blood vesselsand nerves, particularly in the hands and feet. Nerve damage can cause you to lose feeling in the extremities, so that you may not even feel a cut or small sore. Damage to blood vessels reduces the amount of blood, and therefore oxygen, getting to the hands and feet, which means that any sores or infections will take longer to heal. Hands are not a huge problem because you can see what you cannot feel, and you can deal with cuts and sores immediately.
Feet are much more susceptible to blisters which can easily turn to ulcers and infections. You can’t easily see what is happening to your feet, and – because we wear shoes – foot hygiene is both more difficult and more important. Untreated ulcers can lead to gangrene and amputation, and any sign of infection in the foot of a person with diabetes should be considered a medical emergency.