Type 1 and type 2 diabetes put you at an increased risk of developing peripheral neuropathy. This is a condition that can damage the nerves in your feet, leaving you unable to feel minor injuries such as cuts and blisters. Diabetes can also weaken your immune response and impair your circulation, both of which cause healing to take longer, so a cut or blister is more likely to become infected.
When small injuries on your feet don't heal well, it's common to develop a diabetic foot ulcer. A foot ulcer may not sound serious, but they are prone to infection and can take several months to heal. Foot ulcers can become gangrenous and are a common cause for foot amputations in patients with diabetes. Here are some tips for minimising your risk of developing diabetic foot ulcers and an overview of how they are treated:
Minimising Your Risk Of Developing Foot Ulcers
The following steps can help minimise your risk of developing a diabetic foot ulcer:
- See A Podiatrist Regularly - A podiatrist can examine your feet and identify early signs of peripheral neuropathy such as muscle weakness. If you have peripheral neuropathy, regular foot exams will ensure any lesions are promptly identified and treated.
- Quit Smoking - Smoking can damage your circulation, so get in touch with Diabetes Australia or your diabetic nurse for advice on quitting. The better the blood flow to your feet, the less challenging it will be for lesions and ulcers to heal.
- Err On The Side Of Caution - It's best to avoid walking barefoot or wearing shoes that rub or irritate your feet as even a small injury poses a risk. Your podiatrist can give you advice on choosing well-fitting, supportive shoes and can recommend self-care products you can use at home if you notice an injury.
The Treatment Process
Diabetic ulcers should be treated promptly and treatment is likely to be managed between several people in your care team. Your GP may prescribe oral antibiotics to prevent or treat infection, while your podiatrist will clean the ulcer regularly to remove dead skin and exudate. It can take months of cleaning and dressing your ulcer for it to heal, but if it's not showing signs of improving, you may need to have pus surgically drained from the ulcer site.
If you're concerned about the impact of diabetes on the health of your feet, schedule an appointment with a podiatrist at a clinic like Balance Podiatry for a thorough foot assessment as soon as possible.