Out of all the essential foot care services podiatrists provide, professional treatment for diabetic wounds might very well be the most important. Why is this the case? Put simply, it’s because wounds break down to form foot ulcers that increase the risk for critically-serious medical complications.
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, “ulceration precedes 85 percent of diabetes-related amputations.”
That alone is certainly concerning, but even more so is the high five-year mortality rates for new-onset diabetic ulceration. The reported rates between 43 and 55 percent—and up to 74 percent for patients who’ve had lower-extremity amputation—are higher than those for breast, colon, and prostate cancers.
We know that sounds grim, but there is good news—early treatment for diabetic sores can make a big difference!
When we treat diabetic wound care at Fixing Feet Institute, we do so using a holistic approach. This means we consider the larger picture and provide treatment and preventative measures that are actually sustainable.
Diabetic Foot Care Basics
The best starting point with regards to diabetic wounds is getting at least a rudimentary understanding of diabetes and how it relates to your foot health.
Whereas it is fairly well-known that diabetes affects the human body in a variety of ways—including causing widespread, systemic damage—not as much focus is always placed on the lower limbs, and that can be a mistake.
The risk to foot health from this disease is found in the damage that elevated blood glucose levels can render to body systems—and especially the circulatory, nervous, and immune systems.
(Hopefully this will help you start to understand why the holistic approach is so important for both treating and preventing diabetic wounds.)
With regards to the circulatory system, diabetes can cause (or at least contribute to) peripheral arterial disease (PAD). This systemic damage is marked by constricted blood vessels that are unable to provide nourishing, oxygenated blood throughout the body. Given the fact feet are the farthest points from the heart, this is especially problematic for the lower limbs.
Impaired circulation keeps tissues in feet and toes from receiving adequate amounts of nourishment, thereby weakening them. It also makes it harder for the body to fight infection from microbial contaminants.
Diminished blood flow to the lower limbs would be bad enough, but this problem combines with a compromised immune system—and the result is that your body is not able to heal itself in a natural fashion.
One more major issue accompanying PAD and an ineffective immune system is peripheral neuropathy.
Putting it simply, your body actually has two subsystems of your overall nervous system. The central nervous system consists of your brain and spinal column, and you can think of this as being your body’s operating system. You also have the peripheral nervous system, which is a vast network throughout your body.
These nerves serve a variety of functions, depending on which kinds we’re talking about and where they are located. The ones we need to focus on with regards to diabetic wounds are sensory nerves.
Too much sugar in the blood stream damages these nerves. The reason this is a serious problem is because you rely on those nerves to let you know when a problem exists. If they weren’t around, you wouldn’t know when you cut your foot or develop an ingrown toenail. And since you (and your body) don’t know about the problem, you aren’t going to take measures to resolve it.
Numbness caused by peripheral neuropathy is a scary situation.
For this reason, an integral part of a comprehensive diabetic foot care plan is to inspect your lower limbs on a daily basis. Doing so will at least give you visual cues for existing problems. Even better is to run your hands over your feet and toes to see if you can feel anything unusual that way.
When you do not catch wounds early, and they continue to progress, your body tissues break down and become diabetic foot ulcers.
Early treatment is often your best hope for preventing a wound from breaking down to the point of ulceration.
A major concern with ulceration is that the condition can become gangrenous. Also known as “tissue death,” gangrene is untreatable. In fact, the only current option—one that has been practiced for eons—is amputation.
By cutting off a gangrenous limb, we can at least stop the gangrene from spreading to other areas or getting deeper into your body (at which point septic shock is a potential concern).
We don’t want you to get to the point of amputation! (And, in all likelihood, you don’t either.)
If you have diabetes, it is imperative for you to come in and work with us in creating a diabetic foot care plan based on protection, prevention, and early detection.
Holistic Tips for Preventing Diabetic Wounds
Going back to the “holistic approach,” one facet of an effective plan is to manage your diabetes.
Taking care of yourself and managing the disease will serve to keep your circulation stronger and your nerves healthier. In turn this will help protect your feet.
You need to carefully manage your sugar intake, adhere to good dietary practices, refrain from smoking or drinking too much alcohol, and get plenty of low-impact exercise (we can direct you to specific activities that will be safest for you).
During your daily foot check, be vigilant and keep your eyes open for cuts, scrapes, blisters, swelling, ingrown nails, toenail fungus, cracks, fissures, and pretty much anything out of the ordinary. And if you do come across any concerning developments, come see us as soon as possible! (Unless you discover any signs of infection—like warmth, redness, fever, etc.—in which case you need to get to the emergency room ASAP!)
You can lower your risk of infection by keeping feet clean, dry, and protected. Regular hygiene is important, but don’t underestimate the value of wearing diabetic socks and shoes.
We will discuss additional elements of your diabetic foot care plan when you come to see us, but one more consideration is that you shouldn’t trim our own toenails. There is simply too much that can go wrong. Instead, make an appointment with our office and have our professionals do this for you.For more information on diabetic wound care, to learn about our holistic approach for keeping you safe, or to request your appointment with Fixing Feet Institute, simply give us a call at (623) 584-5556 or connect with us online today. Either way, our team looks forward to helping you!