Proper wound care keeps diabetics’ feet healthy
Did you know as many as 6 million diabetics will have a foot ulcer that may result in chronic non-healing wounds and, in extreme cases, lead to amputation?
Diabetes can affect the body in so many ways. The most common ways are open ulcers or wounds on the feet and lower legs. Since diabetic patients have lower to no sensation on their feet/legs, a wounding event can go unnoticed. These wounds and other complications can often lead to amputations of the lower extremity. In fact, diabetes is the leading non-traumatic cause of lower extremity amputation in the United States. The International Diabetes Federation estimations show that every 30 seconds a lower limb is amputated because of a wound complicated by diabetes.
A specialized approach to caring for wounds can prevent amputations or reduce the level of amputation necessary. Many physicians treat acute wounds that heal fairly quickly but with chronic wounds, they can present a challenge. Dr. Marcia Hauter, medical director of the Advocate BroMenn Medical Center’s Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Center, in Normal, Ill., says, “We use a specialized, comprehensive approach to treating these difficult wounds and use a variety of therapies.” These techniques include hyperbaric oxygen therapy, debridement, dressing selections specific to the wound environment and many other advanced therapies.
Dr. Hauter adds, “We not only treat the wound, but we are treating the disease or the problem that is preventing the wound from healing and giving that patient’s quality of life back.”
During National Foot Health Awareness Month in April, Dr. Hauter suggests these foot care tips:
• Don’t count on foot pain to alert you to problems. Diabetes can cause changes in the skin on the feet as well as nerve damage, which can impair sensation of feeling. Visually inspect your feet and between your toes for blisters, cuts and red spots and swelling.
• Avoid crossing your legs: This can cause pressure on the nerves and blood vessels, possibly causing damage.
• Sit with your feet up to keep the blood flowing to them. Two or three times a day, wiggle your toes and move your ankles up and down for five minutes.
• To avoid blisters always wear properly fitting socks. Make sure socks are not tight below the knee.
• To prevent cracking and drying of your feet, rub the top and bottom with lotion but not between the toes.
• Don’t go barefoot. Feel inside your shoes before putting them on to make sure they don’t have tears in the lining or foreign objects.
• Shoes must be fitted well. New shoes should be worn one to two hours a day for the first few weeks.
• Cut toenails straight across and don’t trim them too short. Use an emery board to smooth corners of toenails or ingrown nails.
• Don’t pull loose pieces of skin off your feet. See a healthcare professional to have them removed.
• See your doctor if you experience any foot problems including changes in foot color and/or shape or if something just doesn’t feel right.
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