An estimated 29.1 million people (9.3 percent of the population) have diabetes, and nearly 28 percent are undiagnosed. In addition, about 86 million US adults have prediabetes and more than 77 million of them are unaware. Age, diet, activity level, obesity and heredity are all risk factors for diabetes. People with diabetes can also experience co-existing conditions such as stroke, blindness, heart disease, kidney failure and lower-limb amputation.
In 2010, nearly 73,000 adults aged 20 years or older with diagnosed diabetes received non-traumatic lower-limb amputations. This accounts for 60 percent of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations. Even more alarmingly, people with leg amputation have a 50 percent mortality rate within five years. Diabetes-related amputations may result from chronic wounds caused by diabetes, especially diabetic foot ulcers. It is estimated that 25 percent of people living with diabetes will develop a diabetic foot ulcer.
There are several common factors of diabetic foot ulcers including neuropathy, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), deformities and Charcot foot. Neuropathy is a result of damage to peripheral nerves and often causes weakness, numbness and pain in hands and feet. Similarly, PAD is caused by narrowed arteries which reduce blood flow to the limbs. Charcot foot is a deformity that results from nerve damage in the foot or ankle potentially causing injuries to go untreated leading to the breakdown of joints.
“One in four people with diabetes will develop an ulcer. There are a number of reasons causing the ulcer and preventing its healing,” said Amanda Lausch, JRMC Wound Center family nurse practitioner. “At the JRMC Wound Center, we assist with coordinating care to correct the underlying causes, provide advanced wound treatments and assist with reducing the risk of reoccurrence.”
For those struggling with diabetes, following are some ways to help prevent diabetic foot ulcers:
- Quit smoking. Smoking can wreak havoc on anyone’s body, but it can also slow down and sometimes prevent the ability to heal. It is important to stop smoking immediately and discontinue being around environments where smoking occurs when you have diabetes.
- Foot exams. During each visit to a healthcare provider, individuals with diabetes should have a comprehensive foot examination. Visits should be at least four times per year.
- Daily self-inspections. On a daily basis, diabetics should self-inspect their feet. If unable to inspect their own feet, they should have a family member or close friend perform the foot inspection.
- Routine care. Regular care of the feet including cleaning toenails and taking care of corns and calluses is vital when diabetic.
- Proper footwear. Feet are more than the foundation of the human body. When it comes to footwear, socks and shoes, it is important to choose ones that fit properly and are supportive.
- Exercise. Take time to exercise and eat healthier on a regular basis. Exercising not only helps create a healthier lifestyle and improves overall health, but it can also help to improve circulation.
Proper wound care techniques are imperative to healing diabetic foot ulcers. Debridement, Offloading or Total Contact Casts (TCC), Negative Pressure Wound Therapy and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) are a few of the leading edge treatments offered at our Wound Care Center. Debridement, the removal of damaged tissue, is widely recognized as one of the most important methods of advanced wound care. Relieving pressure from the wound, also known as off-loading, Total Contact Casting is the gold standard for the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers. Finally, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is where a patient receives 100 percent oxygen and an increased atmospheric pressure inside an acrylic chamber. These specialized wound care therapies can aid in wound closure, new tissue growth, wound tissue regeneration and much more.