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What is a diabetic foot ulcer?

A foot ulcer is the most common cause of lower extremity issues for those with diabetes. A diabetic ulcer is when there is a break in the skin. This then leaves the body open to harmful bacteria. An invasion of bacteria can often lead to infection if left untreated.

It is estimated that approximately 15% of diabetic individuals will develop foot ulcers in their lifetime.

Most diabetic foot ulcers form on the soles of the feet. They are most commonly found under the big toes and the balls of the feet. Under the body’s weight, skin deteriorates and eventually becomes an open sore.

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Early Symptoms

Early symptoms of a foot ulcer may include:

  • Swelling, discoloration, and warmth around the wound
  • Pain and firmness when the wound is touched
  • Foul-smelling discharge seeping from the wound
  • Callused or thickened skin surrounding the ulcer

A serious foot ulcer will display black tissue (called eschar) around the affected area.

This occurs because healthy blood vessels have become damaged. As a result, they are no longer supplying the surrounding nerves with oxygen and nutrients.

If left untreated they can even go so far as to affect the bones of the feet.  

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Keep in mind! Signs that you are experiencing foot ulcers are not always obvious.

There are many times you may not show any symptoms until the ulcer has become infected. If you’re unsure, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor. This is especially important if you begin to see any skin discoloration or you begin to feel any pain around an area that appears callused or irritated.

Join us next week for a more in-depth look at what causes a foot ulcer.


(2016, December 15). How to spot and treat common diabetic foot ulcer symptoms. Advanced Tissue. Retrieved from https://advancedtissue.com/2016/12/how-to-treat-common-diabetic-foot-ulcer-symptoms/

Bushby, A. (2012). Diabetes Mellitus. Clinical practice guidelines: A reference manual of best practice in pedorthic care (pp. 5-7). Winnipeg, MB: Pedorthic Association of Canada.

The Healthline Editorial Team, medically reviewed by Steve Kim, MD, (2016, February 18). Diabetic foot pain and ulcers: causes and treatment. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetic-foot-pain-and-ulcers-causes-treatments

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