Diabetic ulcers mostly affect the feet and legs and are formed due to the disease itself. When the tissues of the skin breakdown leading to the exposure of inner layers, this is when ulcers are formed. They are commonly situated under the big toes or on the balls of the feet. They become serious when they touch down to your bones. So, what causes diabetic ulcers, and what are how they can be cured?
Symptoms and diagnosis of diabetic ulcers
One of the first symptoms or signs of getting diabetic ulcers is drainage coming out of the foot. The liquid coming out is capable of staining your socks. Other common symptoms that can appear early are:
- Irritation in the foot
- Unusual swelling
- Visible redness
- Uneasy smell
These were some regular symptoms. But the symptom that results when the diabetic ulcer is in serious condition is the occurrence of black tissue. These tissues are also known as eschar that occurs around the ulcer. When the blood flowing around the area of the ulcer is unhealthy, it gives rise to the formation of black tissues.
Sometimes the tissues surrounding the ulcer no longer live due to infections. These dead tissues form partial or complete gangrene that occurs around the ulcers. When the diabetic ulcer’s conditions are serious:
- Smelly discharge from the foot and legs
- Pain in the affected areas.
- Numbing of the senses.
The symptoms of diabetic ulcers are not always obvious and can easily go unnoticed. Sometimes people realize about the presence of the ulcers when they have already become infected.
One should immediately consult their doctors when they feel any of the symptoms given above. Early consultation can do a big favor by saving the ulcer from spreading.
The doctors use the wagner ulcer classification system to identify the seriousness of the ulcers. This system uses a scale of 0 to 5 to identify the stage:
Stage 0: no open lesions; the presence of healed lesions.
Stage 1: shallow ulcers without dispersion to the deeper layers.
Stage 2: much deeper ulcers that touch the tendons, bones, and even to the joint capsule.
Stage 3: more tissues involved including abscess, tendonitis, or osteomyelitis.
Stage 4: occurrence of gangrene in a part of the foot or on the heel.
Stage 5: occurrence of excessive gangrene which might spread on the entire foot.
Causes of diabetic ulcers
The following health issues give rise to the formation of diabetic ulcers on the skin:
- Poor blood circulation
Poor blood circulation to the feet or other parts can cause the formation of diabetic ulcers. The narrowing of the blood vessels and arteries results in the poor performance of the circulation. This condition might slow down the healing process of the ulcers.
This condition occurs due to the presence of a high level of glucose in the blood. This is caused due to poor sugar intake management. People with type-2 diabetes take a longer time to heal these ulcers.
- Nerve damage
It is long-term damage occurring in the nerves that can cause loss of senses in the foot and other affected parts. The pain that occurs during ulcers is due to nerve damage.
Ways you can treat diabetic ulcer
Below are the following ways one can treat diabetic ulcers:
The prescription contains antiplatelets, anticlotting, and antibiotics which are used for the treatment of diabetic ulcers. All this medication mainly focuses on treating ulcers when the disease progresses even after anti-pressure or preventive measures.
These medications, especially antibiotics mainly target the staphylococcus aureus, a type of bacteria that can cause staph infections as well as the ß-hemolytic Streptococcus, which is mostly located in the intestines.
Before consuming any medication, consult your doctor about other health conditions you are suffering from. As mixing of medications might cause liver problems and HIV. This also increases the risk of infections.
One of the treatment options for diabetic ulcers is surgery, which the doctor will recommend according to the seriousness of your diseases. The surgery involves alleviating the pressure around the ulcer by cutting down the bone or by removing the part that is causing the most trouble.
This is a highly unlikely treatment for diabetic ulcers. Surgery only opts as a treatment when the ulcer becomes worse or leads to amputation.
- Other treatments for diabetic ulcers
The best way to deal with mild ulcers is to avoid activities involving the foot. This is called off-loading and gives temporary relief to the ulcer-affected areas. It also prevents the infections from getting worse as well as spreading the ulcer.
The doctor might recommend you to wear certain protective items to protect your feet:
- Casts to cover the ulcer
- Shoes customized for diabetic people
- Foot braces
- Special shoes to prevent calluses and corn
You have the option to go for debridement. This procedure is performed by doctors to remove foot ulcers. Debridement is the process of removing the dead skin or foreign substances that might serve as the root cause of the ulcer.
Preventing the skin from getting diabetic ulcers
According to a 2017 health review, half of the diabetic ulcer patients get feet infection. People who suffer from moderate to severe foot ulcers often lead to amputation. So, taking precautionary measures is crucial.
- Keep a check on the blood glucose, as the chances of getting diabetic ulcers are low when the blood sugar is optimal.
- Keep your feet clean by washing them every day
- Toenails should be trimmed at an adequate level, not too short.
- Wear shoes that properly fit you
- Remove corn and callus whenever they occur
- Do not wear the same socks every day
- Keep your feet dry and apply moisturizer regularly.
The bottom line
Early detection of diabetic ulcers can be helped with treatments. See a doctor immediately when you feel its symptoms as waiting might lead to a foot infection. While your ulcers heal, avoid pressing them or playing with them. This can make the healing period longer.