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How do you treat diabetic foot ulcers?

Over the course of their lifetime, an estimated 15% of individuals living with diabetes will develop a foot ulcer. An ulcer is when there is a break in the skin that exposes the body to harmful diseases. Most diabetic foot ulcers are commonly caused by four different areas:

  • poor circulation
  • high blood sugar
  • nerve damage
  • irritated or wounded feet

Once an ulcer has formed, there are many ways to treat it.

Diabetic foot ulcers typically experience slow wound healing. Definite improvements, however, should be seen within a week of beginning your treatments. If this is not the case, or the ulcer becomes worse, see your doctor as soon as possible. The ulcer should be re-evaluated to prevent further possible complications.

The most common wound care for a foot ulcer is debridement. This is when a doctor removes the unhealthy tissue from the wound. This process of removing this tissue encourages the body to start its natural healing process. Once this procedure has been started, the doctor will then apply a dressing to the wound. This is something you will need to regularly change to allow the wound to heal effectively.

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Off-loading an ulcer

During the healing process it’s extremely important to remember to stay off your feet. This is referred to as “off-loading.” Continuing to walk on the sore will only worsen the infection and cause the ulcer to expand. It is possible that your doctor will have you wear a cast or surgical boot as part of your treatment. This will help you keep the weight off the injured site. This will assist in the healing process of all forms of foot ulcers.

For those who have a higher BMI, extra pressure could be the cause of ongoing foot pain. Your medical provider may recommend wearing certain items to help protect your feet. These may include

  • Diabetic shoes
  • Casts
  • Foot braces
  • Compression wraps
  • Shoe inserts to prevent corns and calluses

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Your doctor may also recommend at-home diabetic foot ulcer treatments including:

  • Keeping the ulcer dry and covered with appropriate dressings
  • Maintaining proper blood glucose levels
  • Cleaning the ulcer each day with appropriate topical ointments
  • Avoiding excessive walking on your ulcerated foot
  • Wearing loose-fitting shoes made of soft suede or leather with laces or Velcro fasteners
  • Wearing socks that contain extra padding for protection

Symptoms of a foot ulcer may not always be obvious until the ulcer has become infected. If you’re unsure, speak to your doctor right away. They will be able to properly determine the type of ulcer you are suffering from. Once the ulcer is diagnosed by a medical professional, treatment can begin on the affected area. 

(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/

Family Health Team, (2018, April 24). Diabetic foot ulcers: why you should never ignore them. Health Essentials. Retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/diabetic-foot-ulcers-why-you-should-never-ignore-them/ 

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#treatment


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