Diabetic Foot Ulcers

There are almost 21 million people with diabetes in the United States. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control reports that Bingham County has the highest percentage of diabetes in the state of Idaho.

Of these people with diabetes, 10 to 15 percent will develop foot ulcers at some point in their lives.

I recently spoke with Dr. Dan E. Robinson, the newest member of the Bingham family of physicians. He is a surgical podiatrist, and explained how diabetes can affect your feet.

Diabetes can cause two main complications that affect your feet.

The first is nerve damage. It is unclear how diabetes causes nerve damage, but it can cause numbness, tingling, and weakness in the affected areas. When the nerves of the foot become damaged, you are less likely to notice a blister or cut on your foot. Over time simple, overlooked injuries can become infected.

The second problem that diabetes can cause is reduced blood flow. Narrowing or hardening of the arteries because of diabetes can reduce the blood flow to your feet. This restriction gives the tissue in your feet less of the essential nutrients it needs, and healing from minor injuries takes much longer.

Nerve damage and reduced blood flow can cause minor injuries to advance to more serious problems, like diabetic foot ulcers. These are sores that do not heal or are recurring. Currently they account for 84 percent of lower leg amputations.

Foot ulcers require special physician attention in order to begin the healing process. Treatments include antibiotics, bandages, wound care therapy, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

If you are concerned about your feet because of diabetes, there are a couple of things you can do at home. Start by washing and inspecting your feet daily. Wear clean, dry socks; and take foot injuries seriously.

By closely watching your feet, your minor foot problems will remain minor. If you have noticed a sore that doesn’t begin to heal within a few days, you may need to see a physician.

Don’t take your feet for granted, come see Dr. Robinson.

Louis Kraml, CEO Bingham Memorial Hospital