Foot ulcers are open sores on the feet, primarily on the bottom of the foot or toes. Friction, pressure, or an injury to the foot or toes can cause these ulcers, and those with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing them due to nerve damage and poor circulation. It is essential to see an experienced Keller podiatrist at the first sign of a foot ulcer to prevent serious complications such as infections, gangrene, and amputation.
Understanding Foot Ulcers
Anyone can develop a foot ulcer, but certain factors such as having a foot deformity, smoking, or being of advanced age can increase the risk of developing one. The most common cause is diabetes. High blood sugar levels can damage the nerves and blood vessels in the feet, reducing blood flow and sensation. This can lead to small injuries that might go unnoticed and later turn into foot ulcers.
Other Causes of Foot Ulcers
- Peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD is a condition that affects the blood vessels that supply the legs and feet. When the arteries become narrow or blocked, blood flow to the legs and feet can be restricted, leading to foot ulcers.
- Trauma or injury. Having a cut or a blister on the foot can lead to an ulcer if the injury goes unnoticed and pressure is applied to the wound.
- Infections. Infections can cause foot ulcers, especially in those with weakened immune systems or poor blood flow to the feet.
- Foot deformities. Foot deformities such as bunions or hammer toes can lead to increased pressure on certain areas of the feet and result in ulcers.
What Is a Pressure Ulcer?
A pressure ulcer, or bedsore, is caused by prolonged pressure on a particular area of the skin. This type of ulcer is common among individuals who are bedridden, use a wheelchair, or have limited mobility. A pressure ulcer can develop anywhere on the body, including the feet. Common areas for a pressure ulcer to develop are the heels and soles of the feet.
Symptoms of a Pressure Ulcer
- Visible open wound
- Pain or tenderness to the touch
- Skin discoloration
- Warmth in the affected area
What Is a Diabetic Foot Ulcer?
A diabetic foot ulcer is a sore on the skin of the foot that results from nerve damage or poor circulation due to diabetes. It most commonly develops around the toes and heels of the feet. Diabetic foot ulcers are extremely painful and dangerous since they can lead to severe complications if not treated. Complications include infections, amputation, and even death.
Those with diabetes are at higher risk of developing foot ulcers due to peripheral neuropathy or nerve damage, which can cause a decrease in sensation in the feet. If the person does not feel an injury to their foot, it can go undetected until it becomes a bigger problem.
Symptoms of a Diabetic Foot Ulcer
- Open wound
- Drainage on your socks from the wound
- Redness or swelling
- Pain or discomfort
- Foul odor
Difference Between a Pressure Ulcer and a Diabetic Foot Ulcer
Pressure ulcers and diabetic foot ulcers are two types of wounds that can develop on your feet. They both can have severe consequences if not appropriately managed. There are several differences between the two types of foot ulcers:
- Cause. Pressure ulcers are caused by prolonged pressure on the skin and underlying tissues. Diabetic foot ulcers are a complication of diabetes.
- Location. Pressure ulcers often form on bony prominences, such as the heels of the feet. Diabetic foot ulcers are mostly found on the bottoms of the feet, toes, and sides of the feet.
- Appearance. Pressure ulcers have a distinct shape and can appear as a blister, open sore, or crater-like indentation. The surrounding skin may also be discolored or feel warm to the touch. Diabetic foot ulcers may be deep, with a callused edge, and the surrounding skin may have redness or swelling.
- Treatment. Treatment for both types of ulcers will depend on their severity and underlying cause. Pressure ulcers often require pressure-relieving devices, such as padding or cushioning, to reduce the amount of pressure on the affected area. Diabetic foot ulcers may require more advanced treatments, such as debridement and antibiotics, to treat or prevent infection, and surgery may be an option for more severe wounds.
What Does a Foot Ulcer Look Like?
A foot ulcer is usually characterized by a red crater-like wound often found near the toe or heel of the foot. Foot ulcers can vary in size and shape. In addition to the wound itself, there may be signs such as pain, swelling, discoloration, and warmth. As a foot ulcer worsens, there may be drainage and a foul odor, and black tissue may surround the wound.
If you notice any signs of a foot ulcer, seek medical attention immediately. The sooner you seek treatment from an experienced podiatrist, the more likely you are to prevent more serious complications such as infection or amputation.
How to Treat a Foot Ulcer
Treatment for a foot ulcer depends on the severity, location, and type of wound. Some treatments that a podiatrist may recommend for a foot ulcer include the following:
- Cleaning the wound with mild soap and warm water and keeping it dry
- Applying a dressing or bandage over the wound
- Padding the area of the wound to relieve pressure while it heals
- Keeping off your foot until the foot ulcer heals
- Taking antibiotics or applying topical creams to treat or prevent infections
- Have debridement performed to remove any dead tissue or debris from the wound to promote healing
- Having surgery to correct the underlying issue causing the ulcer
Tips for Preventing Foot Ulcers
- Do a daily foot inspection to check for any signs of injury or abnormality.
- Take proper care of your feet, including washing and moisturizing your feet regularly.
- Avoid walking barefoot, and always wear socks to protect your feet.
- Wear shoes that fit correctly and are not too tight or rub areas of your feet.
- Keep your blood sugar levels under control.
- See a podiatrist at the first sign of a problem and for annual foot exams.
How to Find the Best Diabetic Foot Ulcer Doctor
An excellent place to start your search for a diabetic foot ulcer podiatrist is by talking to your primary care doctor or diabetes doctor and asking them for recommendations for podiatrists in your area. You may also want to ask friends or family for podiatrists they may use personally and recommend. There are other ways to find a diabetic foot ulcer podiatrist, including:
- Search online. You can search online for podiatrists in your area. Be sure to look for ones that specialize in treating diabetic foot ulcers. You can look at reviews and client testimonials to get an idea of the level of satisfaction other clients have had with certain doctors.
- Set up a consultation. Once you narrow down your options for a diabetic foot ulcer doctor, you will want to set up a consultation to meet with each one in person. When talking with prospective doctors, ensure they are up-to-date on the latest treatment options and have experience handling conditions like yours.
Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists for Your Foot and Ankle Health
If you have pain in your feet or ankles, it can negatively impact your life and interfere with your daily routine. You need a compassionate, skilled podiatrist to work with you to determine the cause and provide treatment based on your specific needs. With 30 years of experience, the podiatrists at Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists understand the relationship between your feet and your overall health. Whether your condition requires therapy, orthotics, or surgery, we offer leading-edge medical care to address your unique situation.
We offer patients in the Dallas-Fort Worth area safe, effective, and affordable treatment plans. If you’re struggling with a foot or an ankle problem, call us today at 817-481-4000, or fill out our contact form to make an appointment.