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One of The Worst Complications of Diabetes May Be Preventable

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One of The Worst Complications of Diabetes

One of The Worst Complications of Diabetes May Be Preventable

November 13, 2007

(ARA) - When Greg Owen was referred to the Ingham Regional Wound Care Center in Lansing, Mich., he was in danger of losing his toe, possibly his foot, to one of the most devastating complications of diabetes -- chronic wounds. As an active member of the community and an avid fan of Michigan State University sports, amputation was unthinkable.

Diagnosed with diabetes in 1983, Owen was a model patient who monitored his blood sugar levels and paid close attention to changes in his body. After noticing unusual coloring in his foot, Owen immediately called his podiatrist for a consultation.

"I noticed my foot was swollen," Owen said. "Because of the nerve damage and limited feeling I have in my feet, I knew it might be serious and was something my doctor should check."

Owen’s problem was serious. A bone in his foot was applying pressure to his small toe when he wore shoes. The pressure led to an abrasion that became infected and spread to other areas of his foot. He couldn’t feel pain from the infection and it was difficult for him to see the bottom of his foot, so his undetected wounds quickly became severe. At the Wound Care Center, he learned some of the bones, tendons and skin tissues were infected and he was at high risk for amputation.

Approximately 17 million Americans have diabetes, and each year more than 86,000 of them undergo amputations resulting from foot ulcers or chronic wounds. Doctors estimate that nearly 50 percent of amputations may be prevented through a combination of awareness and intervention.

Approximately 60 percent of people with diabetes suffer from a complication called neuropathy, or nerve damage, and may not be able to feel sharp pain in their feet. Left unnoticed and untreated, wounds may become infected and lead to greater complications like amputation.

Owen was fortunate. A team of medical professionals at the Wound Care Center treated his wounds with a variety of strong antibacterial creams, minor surgical procedures and foot dressings. Within seven months, his wounds were completely healed and he was able to do what he most loved -- cheer on the Michigan State Spartans.

"We can’t stress enough how important it is for people with diabetes to check their feet daily and to wear properly fitting shoes," said Dr. Joe Gonzalez, a podiatric surgeon at the Ingham Regional Wound Care Center who treated Owen. "Chronic wounds may be debilitating, but people with diabetes can take simple steps to prevent complications from arising, and thereby significantly improve their condition."

The following preventive measures may help people avoid or minimize the severity of injuries, sores and infections to their feet:

  • never walk barefoot
  • check feet every day for injury and use a mirror to see the soles
  • wash feet daily in warm, soapy water
  • moisturize the soles of feet with unscented lotion immediately after bathing
  • check shoes to make sure they are free of stones and sharp or lumpy objects, like a child’s toy
  • wear loose socks in bed if feet are cold -- do not use hot water or heating pads to warm cold feet
  • make regular visits (every 8 to 12 weeks) to a podiatrist

More than 6 million people in the United States suffer from chronic wounds, commonly defined as wounds that show little or no improvement after four weeks.

Curative Health Services operates a national network of approximately 90 Wound Care Centers, which follow an interdisciplinary approach when treating patients suffering from chronic wounds. Nutrition, wound prevention and education play key roles in all treatment plans.

If non-healing foot ulcers occur, patients should consult a physician. For more information about foot care tips for people with diabetes or treatment for non-healing wounds, call the nearest Wound Care Center at (800) 991-HEAL (4325).

Curative Health Services (www.curative.com) is the nation’s largest wound management company, with Wound Care Centers throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. Wound Care Centers have provided care to over 425,000 patients and treated nearly one million chronic wounds. The Centers maintain a consistent patient satisfaction rate of more than 90 percent across the nation. Eighty-six percent of patients who discussed amputation with their doctors were able to save their limbs through treatment at Wound Care Centers.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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