Foot complications are among the most common type of lower extremity issues experienced by people who have diabetes. Patients who suffer from diabetes tend to frequent hospitals and most leg and foot ulcers are very preventable. They can, however, become life-threatening when left unattended.
Why Do Diabetics Develop Leg Ulcers?
The main reason a diabetic typically develops leg or foot ulcers is neuropathy. Neuropathy is when a patient is having difficulties with sensory and motor function. According to the Diabetic Foot Care Program as well as the Orthopedic Research Center and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, an initial injury may be from an acute (or sudden onset) of mechanical trauma or continuously applied mechanical stress. In some cases, the patient will experience an infection with a foot ulcer. In cases such as this, the results can be life-threatening and are potentially fatal. Most neuropathic ulcers heal within six weeks. People who experience foot ulcers tend to have a recurrent problem frequently.
As with any illness, prevention of an illness or health condition is always better than attempting to treat the problem once it has occurred. One of the main problems with people who have diabetes is the nerve damage associated with infections of the feet. Many diabetics suffer from some sort of nerve damage. This can make it extremely difficult to feel pain like other people would. According to an article on the U.S. News & World Report website, research shows that most leg and foot ulcers are very preventable and are only deadly or life-threatening when left unattended.
There are various methods of prevention, but one method includes using a technique where silicone is injected into the balls of the feet. This procedure is meant to replace fatty tissue that is eroding. This method of treatment has not yet been approved by the FDA.
Another method of prevention involves the diabetic patient using a handheld thermometer to check for temperature differences on the feet. The reason that this method is so effective is because wounds often become a few degrees hotter than other parts of the body. According to a research study published in the American Journal of Medicine, daily monitoring of skin temperature is a great way to prevent diabetic skin ulcers. The TempTouch model of thermometer is the recommended thermometer for daily monitoring. A diabetic patient checking the temperature of his is three times more likely to catch an ulcer than a patient who is only doing visual checks.
The Most Successful Treatment
According to the American Diabetes Association, the cost to treat a diabetic foot ulcer is around $8,000. If the ulcer becomes infected, the cost jumps to $17,000 and if an amputation is needed, the patient can expect to pay around $45,000. With more than 80,000 amputations a year, this can be an expensive venture.
Treatment options may vary from patient to patient. According to whether the patient has a severe infection or not, however, most health care professionals agree that there are three basic things to consider and address when performing diabetic foot ulcer treatment: debridement, offloading and infection.
When the necrotic tissue is removed, this is referred to as debridement. This is considered to be a necessary step in treatment in order to help decrease the risk of infection while reducing peri-wound pressure.
Offloading refers to the patient using a wheelchair or crutches to get around. This temporarily removes pressure on weight-bearing parts of the feet and is very effective in treating diabetic foot ulcers.
Treatment and control of an infection is completely necessary and a very important step in treatment of diabetic foot ulcers. An infection can be limb-threatening for a diabetic. While mild infections can be treated in an outpatient setting, antibiotics should be started immediately in order to keep the infection under control.