Foot ulcers are a serious complication of diabetes. They can be caused by various factors and lead to something more serious if not treated early. A foot ulcer results when the skin tissue begins to break down and opens up to layers of skin beneath. If you are diabetic and notice a foot ulcer, contact your podiatrist immediately for medical treatment.
Top Five Causes of Diabetic Foot Ulcers
There are many reasons people suffer from diabetic foot ulcers. The top five reasons are:
- Uncontrolled blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels can cause the blood vessels to narrow and the arteries to stiffen. When blood and oxygen are restricted, the body’s natural healing process is slowed or diminished. When a foot ulcer forms, it may not heal properly due to this reason.
- Nerve damage. Nerve damage is caused by uncontrolled blood sugar levels and is common for those with diabetes. Peripheral neuropathy can occur and cause a patient to lose sensation and the ability to feel pain. This condition is dangerous for diabetics since they may not realize they have an ulcer on their foot or that it has become severely infected.
- Poor circulation. Diabetics are at greater risk for developing peripheral arterial disease (PAD) which restricts the flow of blood to the legs and feet. This condition affects the body’s healing process. When a sore or wound develops, it can turn into a foot ulcer. The ulcer may not heal, which can lead to a serious complication or amputation of the affected limb.
- Sedentary lifestyle. If you are diabetic and live a sedentary lifestyle—you may be on prolonged bed rest due to an injury or illness and be unable to stay active—it can reduce blood circulation in your feet and legs and deny your body a flow of fresh oxygen. This reduced circulation can put you at a higher risk of foot ulcers.
- Weakened Immune System. Conditions such as diabetes can slow or weaken the body’s immune system and affect the body’s ability to heal and form new skin cells and tissue. Foot ulcers can form and become infected if the body’s immune system is unable to heal them properly.
Diabetic foot ulcers can have different types of symptoms. Some signs of a diabetic foot ulcer to be aware of are:
- Open sores or wounds on the feet that are slow to heal
- Blood or drainage on your socks
- Redness or warmth
- Foul smelling odor
The Dangers of Foot Ulcers
Many diabetic foot ulcers may start out small but can quickly develop into something more serious. See a podiatrist at the first sign of a problem to avoid complications. Some complications that can occur with diabetic foot ulcers are:
- Infection. Infection from a foot ulcer can spread to the bone and surrounding tissue. If this occurs, a patient may be treated with antibiotics and/or require hospitalization, depending on the severity of the infection.
- Gangrene. Gangrene happens when the tissue of a foot ulcer begins to die. Surgery is often needed to remove the affected tissue.
- Abscess. An abscess can form in the tissue of an ulcer. This pocket of pus may need to be drained by a podiatrist and, in some cases, tissue or bone may need to be removed.
- Amputation. In cases where the foot ulcer has become infected and the infection does not heal or spreads to other parts of the body or to the bone, amputation is often performed.
Contact Our Office for Help
If you have diabetes and have concerns about diabetic foot ulcers, contact Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists. To schedule an appointment with one of our podiatrists in our Grapevine or Keller office, fill out our convenient online contact form, or call our office today.