What is the Value of Treating a Diabetic Foot Ulcer?
Once an ulcer is noticed, seek podiatric medical care immediately. Foot ulcers in patients with diabetes should be treated for several reasons such as, reducing the risk of infection and amputation, improving function and quality of life, and reducing health care costs.
How Should a Diabetic Foot Ulcer be Treated?
The primary goal in the treatment of foot ulcers is to obtain healing as soon as possible. The faster the healing, the less chance for an infection.
There are Several Key Factors in the Appropriate Treatment of a Diabetic Foot Ulcer:
- Prevention of Infection
- Taking the Pressure Off the Area, Called "Off-Loading"
- Removing Dead Skin and Tissue, Called "Debridement"
- Applying Medication or Dressings to the Ulcer
- Managing Blood Glucose and Other Health Problems
- Not All Ulcers are Infected
However, if your podiatric physician diagnoses an infection, a treatment program of antibiotics, wound care, and possibly hospitalization will be necessary.
- Several Important Factors to Keep an Ulcer from Becoming Infected:
- Keep Blood Glucose Levels Under Tight Control
- Keep the Ulcer Clean and Bandaged
- Cleanse the Wound Daily, Using a Wound Dressing or Bandage
- Do Not Walk Barefoot
For optimum healing, ulcers, especially those on the bottom of the foot, must be "off-loaded." Patients may be asked to wear special footgear, or a brace, specialized castings, or use a wheelchair or crutches. These devices will reduce the pressure and irritation to the ulcer area and help to speed the healing process.
The science of wound care has advanced significantly over the past ten years. The old thought of "let the air get at it" is now known to be harmful to healing. We know that wounds and ulcers heal faster, with a lower risk of infection, if they are kept covered and moist. The use of full strength betadine, peroxide, whirlpools and soaking are not recommended, as this could lead to further complications.
Appropriate wound management includes the use of dressings and topically-applied medications. These range from normal saline to advanced products, such as growth factors, ulcer dressings, and skin substitutes that have been shown to be highly effective in healing foot ulcers.
For a wound to heal there must be adequate circulation to the ulcerated area. Your podiatrist can determine circulation levels with noninvasive tests.
Controlling Blood Glucose
Tightly controlling blood glucose is of the utmost importance during the treatment of a diabetic foot ulcer. Working closely with a medical doctor or endocrinologist to accomplish this will enhance healing and reduce the risk of complications.
A majority of noninfected foot ulcers are treated without surgery; however, when this fails, surgical management may be appropriate. Examples of surgical care to remove pressure on the affected area include shaving or excision of bone(s) and the correction of various deformities, such as hammertoes, bunions, or bony "bumps."
Healing time depends on a variety of factors, such as wound size and location, pressure on the wound from walking or standing, swelling, circulation, blood glucose levels, wound care, and what is being applied to the wound. Healing may occur within weeks or require several months.