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Diabetic Foot Ulcers: Prevention, Progression, and Treatment

Out of the 34.2 million people in the United States suffering from diabetes, about 15% of these patients develop diabetic foot ulcers — open sores or wounds that are usually located on the sole of the foot — according to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). While some people cannot feel the presence of an ulcer, if left unattended and untreated, it can become infected or lead to situations in which surgery and/or amputation may be required. Fortunately, diabetic foot ulcers are preventable, and if they do develop, there are steps you can take to help them heal without complications.

How Does a Diabetic Ulcer Form?

Diabetic foot ulcers arise out of a combination of factors, including but not limited to:

  • Lack of sensation
  • Poor circulation
  • Foot deformities, such as bunions
  • Constant irritation, friction, or pressure
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Poorly fitting shoes
  • History of foot ulcers
  • Length of diabetes

At-Risk Groups

People living with diabetes who are at the highest risk of developing diabetic foot ulcers include Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans, older men, and overweight patients. Alcohol and tobacco use can increase a patient’s risk factor. In addition, patients who have kidney, eye, or heart diseases related to their diabetes are more likely to develop an ulcer than patients without such diseases. Patients with neuropathy, a numbness to pain or sensation in the extremities, are also considered at risk for foot ulcers.

Symptoms: Identifying a Diabetic Foot Ulcer

Due to the prevalence of neuropathy in diabetic patients who develop foot ulcers, common symptoms of diabetic foot ulcers do not include pain, which is why it is important to check your feet at home on a regular basis. Make sure to look in between the toes and all around the soles of your feet for any irregularities: cuts, cracks, bruises, blisters, or any other blemishes/redness. These can all be signs of a foot ulcer. Additional symptoms to look out for include foot odor, any drainage present on your socks, and any swelling of the foot.

Preventing the Development or Progression of an Ulcer

To prevent a diabetic foot ulcer, it is advisable to consult a podiatrist regularly, especially if you are part of any of the aforementioned at-risk demographics. Reduce alcohol and tobacco use and wear properly fitting shoes and socks as well.

If a foot ulcer does develop, you can still prevent it from progressing. After all, the sooner you identify a foot ulcer, the sooner you can treat it. If you notice any symptoms that could be indicative of a foot ulcer during your routine foot checks at home, seek professional help from a podiatrist immediately. They can help you find the most appropriate treatment option and reduce the risk of progression.

Treatment Options for Diabetic Foot Ulcers

There are a few different actions you can take to help an ulcer heal:

  • Prevent infection: Ulcers can easily become infected, but if you closely monitor your blood glucose levels, keep the area bandaged, and clean it daily, you can greatly reduce the risk of infection. Avoid walking barefoot as well. If an ulcer becomes infected, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection.
  • Off-load pressure and weight: “Off-loading” essentially means to take the weight and pressure off of an area. In the case of diabetic foot ulcers, podiatrists may prescribe the use of a brace, crutches, or castings to take your body weight off of the ulcer. This is especially vital for foot ulcers since they are commonly on the soles of the feet.
  • Topical medication: Foot ulcers may require the topical application of saline, ulcer dressing, or skin substitutes.
  • Surgery: In many cases, surgery is not required. However, if a foot ulcer progresses into an advanced stage, it could be the most viable option. Surgeons will take action to further relieve pressure from your ulcer, sometimes by fixing deformities (i.e. bunions or hallux valgus), which can help the ulcer heal.

Mismanaged Diabetic Foot Ulcers

If you sought medical help regarding your diabetic foot ulcer and your condition worsened as a result, you may be entitled to file a claim to recover damages. Sadly, medical malpractice exists in every medical field, and if you have good reason to believe your doctor treated you incorrectly, aggravated or worsened your foot ulcer, ignored your self-reported symptoms, or the like, Brown & Barron, LLC wants to help you seek justice.

Our legal team has the experience and knowledge required to handle your claim. We frequently accept cases regarding diabetic medical malpractice; notably, we settled a $775,000 case concerning a mismanaged diabetic foot ulcer. Past results cannot guarantee a favorable outcome for your case, but we are proud to fight for diabetes patients who have been subjected to medical malpractice, and we are ready to do the same for you.

To speak to a Brown & Barron, LLC lawyer, contact our firm online.

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