Potential Complications of Untreated Foot Wounds
The reason foot wounds can become such a problem for people with diabetes is that the disease impacts sensation and healing. People with diabetes often suffer from peripheral neuropathy, which means the nerves in their feet are damaged, and they can’t feel when they’ve been injured. Diabetes is also associated with poor circulation in the extremities. If the tissue that is damaged does not get the oxygen and nutrients it needs through good blood flow, then the wound will not be able to heal. So—loss of sensation and an inability to heal can add up to very worrisome conditions, including:
- Ulcers. An ulcer is an open sore or wound that can be caused by friction or pressure from a shoe or can develop if a minor cut, crack, or scrape goes untreated. Ulcers can occur anywhere on the foot, but the worst ones tend to be on pressure points, such as the ball of your foot or the sides where shoes rub. If a patient has lost feeling in their foot because of peripheral neuropathy, they might not know they have an ulcer until it is at an advanced stage—large, raw, and infected.
- Infections. Even a tiny cut or puncture wound can let in harmful bacteria that cause a serious infection. If the infection spreads deep into the tissue or the bone, it can kill off healthy cells and could become resistant to antibiotics. When that happens, complicated limb salvage surgery might be necessary to save the patient’s life.
- Foot amputation. In far too many cases, an infected ulcer leads to the need for a total foot—and sometimes partial leg—amputation. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of non-traumatic lower limb amputation in the U.S., and as many as 24 percent of people with diabetic foot ulcers will end up losing a foot.
With early intervention and frequent check-ups, a simple cut or blister does not have to turn into an ulcer that becomes infected. We encourage people with diabetes to inspect their feet every day—a mirror is a helpful tool—and to keep their feet moisturized and protected in comfortable, well-fitting shoes.
How a Foot Care Specialist Can Help
If you have struggled to control your diabetes and now have peripheral neuropathy or vascular disease, it is vital that a diabetic wound care specialist becomes part of your healthcare team. With regular check-ups, we can catch minor injuries before they escalate. Our diabetic wound care treatment plan might include:
- Cleaning and bandaging the sore
- Taking pressure off the area
- Removing dead skin and tissue, known as debridement
- Applying antibiotic cream to the wound
- Prescribing oral antibiotics
- Encouraging control of blood glucose levels
We know how hard it is to manage a chronic disease like diabetes, but we’re here to help prevent one of the most common and most devastating potential complications. Allow us to help you care for your feet.
Schedule a Diabetic Food Inspection Today
Our board-certified diabetic foot care specialists are available in our state-of-the-art facilities throughout the greater Portland area to help prevent diabetic ulcers, infections, surgeries, and amputations. To schedule an appointment with the Northwest Extremity Specialists, call your nearest office today or drop us a line using our online contact form.