Signs of a Diabetic Foot Ulcer

In addition to causing abnormal blood sugar levels, diabetes is associated with potential medical problems throughout your body, including your feet. 

The link between diabetes and foot problems is so common that the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons recommends that people with diabetes inspect their feet daily to identify foot ulcers and other problems.

Reduce your chances of developing a foot ulcer by maintaining proper foot health under the direction of a podiatrist like Jeremy Moran, DPM. Dr. Moran provides professional diagnosis and treatment of diabetic foot ulcers and other foot problems at his private practice, ToeOp, in Tomball, Texas. 

In this blog, we discuss how diabetic foot ulcers develop and how you can identify the signs of foot ulcers before they worsen and result in complications. 

Causes of diabetic foot ulcers

Having diabetes increases your risk of developing foot ulcers because the disease can cause a loss of feeling in your feet, a condition called neuropathy. 

With neuropathy, the nerve endings become damaged and your feet lose sensation, often becoming numb. Your feet are unable to receive sensory messages that indicate pain when your feet are injured. 

With neuropathy, you can have a foot injury or callus without knowing it exists. Because you are unaware of the wound, you may not get treatment in its early stages when we can prevent serious complications. 

Diabetes can cause poor circulation that limits the amount of blood and oxygen that reaches your feet, hindering normal healing and allowing a foot ulcer to develop. 

Neuropathy also prevents the nerves on your feet from producing appropriate amounts of the natural oils that keep your skin healthy and moisturized. 

Without healthy amounts of blood and oxygen, your skin can become flaky and damaged. When bumps, bruises, and blisters develop on damaged skin, the skin breaks down easily and the sore becomes vulnerable to infection. 

Recognizing diabetic foot ulcers

A diabetic foot ulcer typically develops on the bottom or side of your foot, though it can also develop on the top or tip of a toe or other locations. 

Cuts, redness, blisters, swelling, or nail problems can indicate potential problems with your feet and establish conditions favorable for diabetic foot ulcers. 

If you have nerve damage from diabetes, you may not realize that a wound exists until you see a stain of pus or blood on your socks, usually on the bottom of your feet. If you don’t have nerve damage, the foot ulcer may cause pain.

In its early stages, a foot ulcer looks like a shallow red hole that penetrates the surface of the skin. A border of thick, callused skin may surround the wound.

In its later stages, a diabetic foot ulcer can progress to a deep crater that extends through your skin and exposes your bones and tendons. 

A serious foot ulcer may also be surrounded by a border of black tissue that forms as a result of the limited blood flow to the area. If the area is infected, it may also have a foul odor. 

Preventing serious consequences

About 15% of people with diabetes develop a foot ulcer. And 6% of those who develop this problem are likely to be hospitalized as a result of infection or other complications related to the ulcer. 

Ultimately, between 14-24% of people with diabetes who develop a foot ulcer require an amputation. 

Early intervention can improve the outcome of a diabetic foot ulcer. If you notice changes on your feet, don’t attempt to treat the problem yourself. You could make a diabetic foot ulcer worse with attempts to dig it out or cut around dead skin.

Based on the location and severity of the wound, Dr. Moran can determine the most appropriate way of treating the foot ulcer and protecting your well-being. To assess the foot ulcer, we may use diagnostic tests such as a blood test, bacterial culture, bone scan, X-ray, MRI, or CT scan.

Treatment for your foot ulcer may involve debridement, a type of minimally invasive foot surgery that removes the dead and unhealthy tissue from the wound so your body’s natural healing mechanism can work to repair the area. 

After a debridement, you may have to wear a cast or boot to avoid putting pressure on the treated site while it heals. 

If you have diabetes, remain vigilant about daily foot inspection and foot care. To find out more about foot ulcers and your risk of foot problems, schedule an appointment for a foot examination by calling us at ToeOp today.

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