By: Tony Edwards for Diabetes1
Almost a million people in the United States suffer from ulcers on their feet as a result of diabetes and about six percent of these patients will end up needing to be admitted to the hospital because of an infection or a complication from these ulcers. And while many of the ulcers that result from the effects of diabetes are preventable with early treatment and lifestyle changes, once the ulcers form, they can be difficult to heal.
These ulcers are usually found on the bottom of the foot. Without treatment, up to a quarter of people who develop these ulcers may need to have an amputation.
Preventing Diabetic Foot Ulcers
Understand your risk of type 2 diabetes. Does it run in your family? Prevention and early treatment are keys to a healthy lifestyle.
Have regular check-ups with your physician and podiatrist. Tell your doctor what is going on with your body. Have your feet been numb? Do you have sores that aren’t healing?
Take a closer look at your plate. A poor diet can put you at increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
Develop an exercise plan. Start slowly and work with members of your healthcare team to create a training routine that works for you.
The foot ulcers can form due to a lack of feeling in the lower extremities, reduced circulation, certain deformities, continued friction/pressure, or trauma. The longer diabetes goes untreated, the higher the risk and complications of any and all of these formation factors.
Nerve damage, causing a lack of feeling, may not be immediately noticeable. In the doctor’s office, a podiatrist will do a painless test using a monofilament to check for any nerve damage.
Either type of diabetes results in an elevations in blood glucose in the body. This elevated glucose level can inhibit the body’s ability to fight off infection and also slow healing of wounds, not just wounds of the feet.
Podiatrists and physicians who treat patients with diabetes and ulcers resulting from diabetes can offer a number of treatment options. Taking weight off the wound, or offloading, different types of wound dressings, removing the already-dead tissue and skin, and helping a patient manager his or her blood glucose levels are all part of the treatment regimen.
At the American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting in San Francisco in March, practitioners from Philadelphia examined one of these treatment options for diabetic foot ulcers: using a wound dressing that controls excess moisture and a topical growth factor to speed wound healing.
Over a 12 week period, the researchers compared the effectiveness of different treatments on diabetic foot ulcers: a polymer dressing that regulated the moisture on the wound used both alone and in conjunction with a topical growth factor, becaplermin gel.
Thirty patients were involved in the study. In patients who had the dressing alone, the wounds closed 71 percent of the time. They closed 73 percent of the time when the treatment combined the dressing and the topical growth factor. However, while the wound healing rate was similar for both treatments, the wounds closed significantly faster for patients who were treated with the dressing alone. The researchers noted that both treatments studied here had better healing rates than the traditional diabetic foot ulcer treatment, which is a gauze dressing moistened with saline solution.