The importance of preventing and recognizing foot wounds cannot be understated: Up to 24 percent of diabetic patients who develop a non-healing foot ulcer will require amputation; put another way, foot ulcers precede 85 percent of diabetes-related amputations.1
Foot Wounds and Peripheral Artery Disease
Among the most obvious signs of advanced Peripheral Artery Disease is foot wounds and ulcers. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that foot wounds should be among the most obvious signs of advanced PAD. However, the nature of circulatory issues and numbness that is prevalent in Type 2 diabetes sufferers and others with PAD means that many people do not know they have a foot wound until days later – days that can be long enough to let infection set in and amplify the risk of amputation.
Foot Wounds and How they Occur
How do foot wounds occur? Any number of factors can contribute to a foot ulcer: poor circulation and lack of feeling, irritation of the area exacerbated by friction or pressure, trauma to the foot, and existing deformities, to name a few. In addition, long-time diabetics often develop neuropathy – nerve damage which inhibits the ability to feel the wound, often adding days before it is even detected.
PAD and diabetes not only inhibit the ability to feel the pain of a foot wound; they can also impair the body’s ability to heal an ulcer, and elevations in blood glucose can reduce the ability to fight infection, both factors leading to further damage and, again, increasing the danger of amputation. Due to a lack of feeling, you must learn to recognize other symptoms aside from the obvious ulceration, including discharge on your socks and redness and swelling of the foot.
What Can You Do About Foot Ulcers and Wounds?
Before foot wounds get bad enough where amputation is an imminent risk, there are a number of things you can do:
- See your podiatrist regularly to check for neuropathy and signs of foot ulcers.
- Follow your doctor’s recommendations for diet and exercise to treat your diabetes and minimize the risk of foot wounds and diabetic ulcers.
- Incorporate regular self-checks into your daily routine so that unfelt wounds do not go undetected; look for cuts, bruises, cracks, blisters, and any other abnormal signs that indicate a wound.
- If you do have a foot wound, see your podiatrist immediately; keep it clean and change dressings regularly to prevent infection, and follow other instructions from your doctor.
- Always remember to cool down by slowly walking for 5 minutes followed by light stretching of your calf and thigh muscles.
- Take our PAD Risk Assessment Quiz to evaluate your own vulnerability and educate yourself on symptoms and prevention.
- Even when taking precautions, you may still develop foot wounds and ulcers. Don’t delay treatment. If you or a family member have foot wounds that will not heal, please contact Modern Vascular at 1-888-853-1278 and a Nurse or Patient Advocate will review your symptoms with you on the phone and help you to determine whether you should schedule a consultation at a Modern Vascular clinic. Modern Vascular opened its first Wound Care Clinic in Southaven.
- APMA: Diabetic wound care