An estimated 34.2 million people in the United States are currently living with diabetes. Diabetes-related wounds are a leading cause of limb loss and 10 Americans undergo amputation each hour. Up to 55 percent of diabetic patients will require amputation on the second leg. Even more alarming, nearly half of those living with an amputation will die within two to three years. Early detection and specialized care from a Wound Care Center can reduce healing times and amputation risk is reduced by almost half when a multi-specialty wound care team provides care.
Risk factors for diabetes include age, diet, activity level, obesity and heredity. Factors that may increase the risks of developing a chronic wound, such as a diabetic foot ulcer, include high blood sugar levels, poor circulation, immune system issues and nerve damage.
Approximately 25 percent of people living with diabetes will develop a foot ulcer. Several factors can increase the likelihood of developing diabetic foot ulcers, including neuropathy, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), deformities, and Charcot foot.
Neuropathy results from damage to peripheral nerves and often causes weakness, numbness and pain in the hands and feet. Similarly, with PAD, narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs, causing damage. Charcot’s foot is a deformity that results from nerve damage in the foot or ankle, which may cause injuries to go untreated, leading to the breakdown of joints.
Speare Memorial Hospital’s Wound Care & Hyperbaric Medicine Center recommends the following to help prevent diabetic foot ulcers:
- Stop smoking immediately
- Comprehensive foot examinations each time you visit your healthcare provider (at least four times a year)
- Daily self-inspections of the feet, or have a family member perform the inspection
- Regular care of the feet, including cleaning toenails and getting help to take care of corns and calluses
- Choose supportive, proper footwear (shoes and socks)
- Take steps to improve circulation such as eating healthier and exercising regularly
Diabetic foot ulcers have a very high recurrence rate: As many as 40 percent of people with a healed diabetic foot ulcer will develop a new ulcer within a year. Diabetic foot ulcers can be challenging to heal. Wound Care Centers provide advanced therapies to aid in infection prevention, new tissue growth and successful wound closure. It is important to seek specialized care from a Wound Care Center as soon as an ulcer develops.
Debridement, total contact casting, offloading, negative pressure wound therapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) are advanced wound care modalities often used to treat diabetic foot ulcers. Debridement is the process of removing dead tissue from wounds. It is necessary for healing because dead tissue hinders the growth of new cells and makes it easier for infection to occur. Total contact casting relieves pressure from the wound and is considered the gold standard for treating diabetic foot ulcers. Other forms of offloading or taking pressure off the wounded leg or foot, including boots, crutches or wheelchairs.
Negative pressure involves placing a vacuum over a dressed wound, which draws the fluid from the body through the wound and stimulates blood flow. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides patients with 100-percent oxygen in an enclosed acrylic chamber with higher-than-normal atmospheric pressure, which allows their blood to carry more healing oxygen to the wound.
For more information about diabetic foot ulcers or how we may be able to help avoid amputation, contact Speare Memorial Hospital’s Wound Care & Hyperbaric Medicine Center at (603) 481-8780.