If you’re caring for someone living with diabetes, you may be concerned about the possibility of diabetic foot ulcers. A common cause of hospitalization for diabetics, foot ulcers can quickly develop from a small sore and lead to complications such as infection, hospitalization and even amputation.1
Foot ulcers are breaks or sore spots in the skin that are slow to heal. They’re often found on the bottom of the feet around the ball or on the big toe, but can also appear on the tops of feet or around the ankles and lower legs.2
Ulcers may progress along a range of stages, starting with small, red painful sores that don’t break the skin and worsening into deep, open sores that can eventually expose muscle, tendon and even bone.3
When caring for people living with diabetes, you must pay very close attention to their feet and seek medical attention for foot wounds with any of the following signs4:
Foot ulcers can become dangerous very rapidly for people living with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes because of poor blood flow or circulation to the feet and fewer white blood cells for healing.5 Reduced feeling or numbness in the feet due to limited nerve function can also keep a person living with diabetes from noticing when a painful sore is forming.6
According to Medscape7, around one in twenty people living with diabetes will have a foot ulcer in their lifetime. It’s important to not ignore early warning signs or small wounds. They may seem harmless, but if untreated, these ulcers can lead to serious complications, including infection, hospitalization and even amputation.8
Whenever a wound or suspicious sore is found on the foot of a person living with diabetes, their doctor or podiatrist should be consulted immediately.
As a caregiver, there’s a lot you can do to help people living with diabetes avoid foot ulcers or prevent them from becoming more serious.
Daily foot checks are an essential part of preventive care. According to the the American Diabetes Association9 and International Journal of Preventive Medicine10, that includes:
You can also help reduce a person living with diabetes’ risk of foot ulcers by:
Most importantly, don’t ever wait for a foot wound to “just go away.” If the person under your care has a new foot wound or an existing sore that begins to look different, feel different or worsen, take them to a doctor or podiatrist immediately.
Even a small wound that seems harmless can grow serious very quickly. The infection or ulceration of a foot wound can progress dangerously fast, sometimes leading to amputation or other damage in just a few weeks.