Diabetes foot complications are the main reason that diabetics are hospitalized in the United States, with diabetic foot ulcers posing the most serious threat:
- Approximately 100,000 cases of diabetes result in diabetic foot amputation, according to the Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys, California.
- The International Working Group on the Diabetic Foot reports that roughly one in six diabetics develop diabetic foot ulcers, characterized by the breakdown of foot tissues that leaves an open sore.
Diabetics need to pay close attention to their foot health to avoid diabetes foot complications. One of the best ways to do this is to avoid developing the following two conditions that contribute to diabetic foot ulcers:
- Ischemia: A condition in which poor circulation causes less blood to flow to the limbs, resulting in slow healing time.
- Neuropathy: Also known as nerve damage, neuropathy causes severe diabetes foot pain and conversely, prevents diabetics from feeling small injuries.
Diabetics who also have ischemia and/or neuropathy are far more likely to get diabetic foot ulcers that don’t heal. If the foot ulceration doesn’t heal and is left untreated, the situation may call for a diabetic foot amputation or partial foot amputation.
Diabetes Foot Ulcers
People with diabetes can get small sores (ulcers) from walking long distances or having shoes that fit poorly. Unfortunately, however, diabetic foot pain usually goes unnoticed due to nerve damage, which is a common symptom of diabetes. Because diabetics often have a high level of glucose in their blood, the sore can become infected.
Additionally, since this condition commonly causes poor circulation, the diabetes foot ulcers often don’t heal. An ulcer that is left untreated can become gangrenous, creating the need for diabetic foot amputation (or partial foot amputation) to save the patient’s life.
Some warning signs that a foot is in poor health and susceptible to diabetic foot ulcers include:
- Changes in skin color
- Corns and calluses
- Lack of hair growth on foot
- Open sores
- Swelling in the foot or ankle
- Very cold feet and/or legs
- Wounds that don’t heal.
If you have any of these symptoms, see a doctor immediately, as early detection and treatment of diabetes foot complications can prevent the need for amputation.
Preventing Diabetic Foot Amputation
Diabetics should work with their doctors to control blood sugar levels in order to prevent or delay diabetic foot complications. Other preventative measures include:
- Avoiding high heels, pointy shoes, strapless shoes, etc.
- Avoiding walking barefoot
- Checking feet daily for any cuts, sores or changes
- Cutting toenails straight across and keeping them filed
- Discarding shoes with rough areas inside
- Having feet regularly checked by a doctor
- Keeping any foot wounds covered with clean dressings
- Not wearing jewelry on the feet
- Purchasing comfortable shoes that fit well
- Wearing loose-fitting socks
- Wearing shoes indoors and outdoors.
In order to avoid diabetic foot ulcers and the need for diabetic foot amputation, you’ll also want to make healthy lifestyle choices such as eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking.
American Diabetes Association. (n.d.). Foot complications. Retrieved April 16, 2010, from http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/foot-complications.html.