“Doctor, I didn’t notice I had bleeding coming from that toe. I can’t really get down to my feet, because I’m getting older, my belly’s big, and my back hurts. I can’t get down there and trim my toenails as well as I should. And I don’t have good feeling in my feet.”
Poor Mr. Smith. He has a diabetic foot ulcer on the bottom of his right big toe. And he didn’t even know it.
J. Marshall Devall, DPM, Podiatrist at the Temple Santa Fe Center, discusses the signs and symptoms of diabetic foot ulcers.
What Is a Diabetic Foot Ulcer?
An ulcer is a chronic wound that stays open.
Unhealed diabetic foot ulcers are common and serious complications of diabetes. If they’re not treated properly, Dr. Devall says, they increase the risk of:
Diabetic foot ulcers are difficult to heal. “Using traditional treatments for diabetic ulcers, our cure rate is only about 30 percent. That’s not very good,” says Dr. Devall.
“Statistically, if the ulceration is present a month or longer, then it’s going to get infected at some point,” says Dr. Devall.
“Bone infection is really bad, because it doesn’t really work to put you on antibiotics for that. Normally we have to cut that out — that’s removing bone, or amputation. That begins a cycle, and it’s hard for us to stop a snowball running downhill,” cautions Dr. Devall.
Preventing ulcers from starting or treating them immediately is critical in warding off bigger problems.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Foot Ulcers?
Dr. Devall says it’s imperative you contact your primary-care physician or your podiatrist immediately if you have:
- Open lesions
- Foreign material stuck in your foot
- Pain in your ankle
“If you have open sores or infections or you have severe pain, we get you in right away. If it’s an emergent problem,” says Dr. Devall, “we’ll work you in within 24 hours.”
Says Dr. Devall: “We don’t want you to wait until you have a disastrous complication.”