Open sores on the feet—also called wounds or ulcers—are an extremely common complication of poorly managed diabetes. Ulcers tend to be located on the sides or bottoms of the feet, or the tips of the toes--often places that bear weight or are exposed to excess friction, pressure, or shearing forces. They often look like reddish “craters” and may be surrounded by blackened skin or thick calluses. Pain, odor, and drainage are also possible symptoms.

If you have diabetes and observe cuts, bruises, or sores on your feet, please call the wound care experts at Northwest Extremity Specialists to schedule an evaluation as quickly as possible.

Why Are Foot Ulcers So Dangerous?

Ulcers can have very humble beginnings. A simple cut, bruise, or deep crack in the skin may fail to heal under the right circumstances. Wounds that don’t heal and don’t receive quick medical attention may become infected. That infection may spread, including deep into the tissue and bone, killing healthy cells. If the infection has progressed too far, either a complex limb salvage surgery—or an outright amputation—may be the only viable options.

Why Are Foot Wounds Associated with Diabetes?

Person sitting with a bandaged foot

The majority of open foot wounds—and consequently, the majority of non-traumatic lower limb amputations—occur in people with diabetes. There are three main reasons for this:

  • Diabetes is extremely common, with about 1 in 10 Americans suffering from the condition, and many more with diagnosed or undiagnosed prediabetes.
  • Diabetes is strongly associated with poor circulation, particularly in the extremities. Without strong circulation, tissues can’t get the oxygen or nutrients they need, wounds take longer to close, and your body can’t fight off infections as effectively.
  • Diabetes is also strongly associated with peripheral neuropathy, a condition in which the nerves of the feet and legs are damaged or degenerated. This means you are less likely to notice that a cut or other injury has occurred or is worsening, due to loss of sensation in the feet.

While diabetes is by far the leading underlying condition behind foot ulcers, it is not the only one. Any circumstances that can produce poor nerve or circulatory health are associated with higher risk. This include alcoholism, poor nutrition, various medical conditions, etc.

When Should I Seek Help?

You should always seek professional help immediately after observing a foot ulcer, or any skin or foot problem that lasts more than a couple of days without improving. The risk of infection—and the potentially catastrophic complications that may result—is simply too high to take any chances.

Our team of diabetic wound care specialists understand how serious ulcers can be. That’s why we offer extensive wound care services, including advanced procedures, dressings, and techniques. We will do everything in our power to heal your wounds as quickly as possible and prevent or eliminate any infections. Prompt, professional care is the only way to protect your feet and restore full, healthy function.

Can I Prevent Diabetic Wounds?

Yes. Simply having a diabetes diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean that you will develop ulcers. If you are vigilant and avoid significant risk factors, you greatly improve your chances of keeping your feet safe.

The most important thing you can do is perform a daily self-exam. It is critical that you give your entire foot (including the nails and hard-to-reach spaces like between the toes) a careful inspection with both your eyes and your hands. Any injuries, redness, bumps, cuts, cracks, corns or calluses, dry skin, warm or cold spots, etc. should be noted and monitored and reported if they do not improve within a day or two.

You should also keep these prevention strategies in mind:

  • Wear comfortable, supportive, breathable, good-fitting shoes and socks. Avoid shoes that pinch your feet. Never go barefoot, even indoors.
  • Monitor and manage your blood sugar levels carefully.
  • Monitor and manage other conditions that increase your risk, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol.
  • Wash your feet daily, then dry and moisturize thoroughly afterward.
  • Trim your toenails straight across. Avoid cutting too short or leaving the nails too long.
  • Avoid smoking or excessive alcohol intake.
  • Schedule a diabetic foot care check-up with the Northwest Extremity Specialists if it’s been more than a year since your last professional exam. Our team will monitor your nerve and circulatory health and address any ongoing concerns. If necessary, we may prescribe diabetic shoes or orthotics to provide additional protection.

To schedule your regular check-up or seek further assistance for a foot ulcer or diabetic wound, please contact the nearest office of the Northwest Extremity Specialists today.