Diabetic ulcers are open sores or chronic wounds on your skin that don’t heal properly, even when given ample time to recover. For diabetic patients, ulcer healing can be a long, painful, and slow process, especially if your blood flow is restricted. Regardless of your age, gender, background, or general health, all diabetes patients are at risk of developing a diabetic ulcer. But there are ways to prevent and treat these wounds before they become serious.
Diabetic ulcers are often caused by reduced blood flow and improper foot wound care
For diabetic patients, any small skin injury can develop into an ulcer. And while diabetic ulcers can occur anywhere on the body, foot ulcers are the most common form of this chronic wound.
Why do diabetic foot ulcers occur?
Diabetes raises your blood sugar levels (also called blood glucose levels) which can damage your nerves and blood vessels over time. As blood vessel damage increases, blood flow decreases—impacting your body’s natural wound healing process. Because feet already have lower blood flow than other parts of the body, they’re often the first extremities to experience diabetic ulcers. They can also have the longest healing time. Nerve damage further adds to the complexity of diabetic foot disease, as diabetic patients may not sense foot injuries, or realize the severity of the foot wound, while the wound is still easily treatable.
A serious diabetic foot ulcer can occur at any point, often without warning. Ingrown toenails can lead to infected tissue. Taking a walk barefoot can expose your feet to small wounds that evolve into infected ulcers. And simply breaking in a new pair of shoes can trigger a blister or callus that marks the early formation of a diabetic foot wound.
As that blister, callus, or small wound remains open and exposed, poor circulation to your feet prevents the wound from healing. If left untreated, the affected area may develop into a diabetic foot wound that wears away at the surrounding skin, healthy tissue, and muscle on your feet—ultimately causing a total loss of feeling in the extremity. In extreme cases, diabetic foot ulcers can even require a limb amputation.
For those who already have a diabetic foot ulcer, or are at risk of developing one, knowing the facts about these preventable wounds can go a long way in helping you live a healthy, complication-free life.
Follow these three tips to prevent diabetic foot ulcers—and promote healing throughout your whole body:
Preventing diabetic foot ulcers from forming requires a bit of patient education and forethought. But with these tips in mind, you can reduce your risk of developing foot ulcers and limit further foot complications.
1. Care for your feet
Shoe friction is one of the most common causes of preventable diabetic foot ulcers. Choosing appropriate footwear for walking, exercise, yardwork, and around-the-house activities can limit calluses and blisters that otherwise may quickly develop into a foot ulcer.
To further reduce friction on your feet, consider wearing heavily padded socks and comfortable, activity-appropriate shoes when you plan to walk extended distances. The extra padding can help provide an extra buffer between your shoes and feet, reducing blister formation.
If you begin to develop ingrown toenails, blisters, or calluses, get medical attention quickly—before further complications arise.
2. Control your blood sugar levels
Abnormal blood sugar levels can lead to peripheral neuropathy, one of the leading causes of diabetic foot ulcers. Peripheral neuropathy causes a lack of feeling in the extremities, which can allow sores, calluses, and blisters to go unnoticed, linger, and develop into ulcers.
You can maintain normal blood sugar levels by regularly exercising, staying hydrated, eating fruits and vegetables, controlling carb intake, getting plenty of sleep, and managing your stress level. For people with diabetes, these positive activities quickly add up—helping to prevent ulcers and foot sores before they become chronic.
3. Improve your blood flow
Lack of blood circulation is a significant contributing factor to neuropathy, so maintaining a healthy and strong blood flow is another effective way to prevent the formation of diabetic foot ulcers.
Improving your blood flow can be as simple as minding your diet and exercise, keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level, and staying active. As your heart becomes stronger through proper diet and exercise, it can more effectively pump blood out to your extremities, improving the wound healing process in both your feet and hands.
If you already have a diabetic foot ulcer, prompt treatment is key
When it comes to treating diabetic foot ulcers, the sooner you start the wound healing process, the better. Prompt and proper wound care is essential to preventing infected ulcers and speeding up your recovery time.
An emerging blister or callus that could become a superficial ulcer can be treated by “off-loading” the wound—taking certain measures to alleviate pressure, reduce friction, or protect the site of the wound. This can be done by wearing a cast, surgical shoes, or a boot designed to help take weight off your foot ulcer.
When an ulcer does develop, one of the first courses of action your doctor may choose to take is a wound care procedure known as “debridement,” which involves removing the unhealthy or necrotic tissue surrounding the foot ulcer. To help the ulcer heal quickly, your doctor may remove any dead skin, dead tissue, and scar tissue that’s blocking air circulation or blood flow to the affected area. Doing so can help spark the body’s natural healing process and promote the growth of new, healthy skin.
Dakin’s Solution can help protect your diabetic ulcer from infection without impeding the healing process
Diabetic foot wounds are vulnerable and susceptible to infection. That’s why quick skin growth and constant protection of the wound site are crucial in the early stages of the ulcer healing process.
Always follow your doctor’s treatment advice and communicate frequently as your wound heals and progresses. They will likely recommend keeping your diabetic foot ulcer wrapped and covered by a clean dressing, which is changed regularly, while using a wound care cleanser like Dakin’s. Dakin’s Solution can help protect ulcers from infection, enabling them to heal as quickly as possible, without causing skin irritation, stinging, or discomfort.
Diabetic foot care doesn’t have to be complicated, inconvenient, or expensive.
Dakin’s Solutions, available online and at your local pharmacy, offer a simple and affordable way to prevent infected ulcers and aid in the ulcer healing process.
To order Dakin’s for your patients or yourself:
Have questions about our line of wound care products? Contact our team.