This article will look at diabetic foot ulcer treatment after an introduction to the problem:
What are Diabetic Ulcers?
Diabetes unfortunately comes with several complications, many of which are unseen, but there is one symptom that’s dangerously visible: diabetic ulcers. While the damage often lurks within the body for those who have diabetes, as it progresses, diabetic ulcers can develop. Unfortunately, developing a diabetic foot ulcer isn’t as rare as you might think, according to research from the American Podiatric Medical Association:
A diabetic foot ulcer is an open sore or wound that occurs in approximately 15 percent of patients with diabetes and is commonly located on the bottom of the foot. Of those who develop a foot ulcer, 6 percent will be hospitalized due to infection or other ulcer-related complication.
If you suffer from an aching, irritating diabetic ulcer, and are even embarrassed with how it looks cosmetically, fortunately there are several solutions. But before we dig into what those solutions may comprise, it is important to have a solid foundation on what diabetic ulcers are, their causes, how to combat them and most importantly, diabetic foot ulcer treatment.
Understanding the Causes of Diabetic Ulcers
In most cases, diabetes doesn’t just happen overnight – it is directly related to choices in lifestyle. Diabetic ulcers go hand-in-hand alongside diabetes itself. According to the APMA, ulcers are caused from a variety of factors, including, “lack of feeling in the foot, poor circulation, foot deformities, irritation (such as friction or pressure), and trauma, as well as duration of diabetes. Patients who have diabetes for many years can develop neuropathy, a reduced or insufficient ability to feel pain in their feet due to nerve damage caused by elevated blood glucose levels over time.”
The bad news is. essentially, you’re at risk if you have one or more of the following: neuropathy, poor circulation, foot deformity (like a bunion, hammer toe, wear inappropriate shoes, uncontrolled blood sugar or a history of a previous foot ulceration. The good news is, in many of these instances, diabetic ulcers can be prevented by following a diet and lifestyle that increases blood flow, lowers blood sugar levels and reducing friction and pressure. Try eating healthily, make food from scratch rather than shop-bought sauces high in sugar and salt, and look into Ayurveda.
Diabetic Foot Ulcer Treatment
If you do find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having diabetic ulcers, fortunately there is diabetic foot ulcer treatment. While surgery may be inevitable, it’s important to try your hand at the following non-invasive methods. In most cases, many people with diabetic ulcers can tackle the problem at home. Many effective treatment options now exist, such as negative-pressure wound therapy (NPWT), also known as ‘VAC Therapy’, a therapeutic technique using a vacuum dressing to promote healing in acute or chronic wounds and enhancing the healing of second and third degree burns. By applying a continuous vacuum, the blood flow is increased in the area of the wound, drawing out excess fluid from it. Depending on the wound type or location, the vacuum can either be applied continuously or intermittently. Negative pressure wound therapy can be used for a few days to several months at a time.
Other methods include the use of blasts of ultrasound, in a clinical setting, helping ‘stubborn’ chronic wounds to heal more quickly, as reported by the BBC almost two years ago.
As always, it is important to consult your doctor first before making any drastic changes. At the very least, if you think the following methods would be effective for you and your diabetic ulcers, discuss this at your next visit to your GP or consultant.
Off-Loading Treatment or Compression Therapy
Another great way to combat the diabetic ulcers that can be found on the bottom of feet or legs is to use compression therapy. With off-loading therapy, it is most effective when the foot is in complete contact with the cast. According to a 2014 Medscape study:
The gold standard for offloading foot wounds in people with diabetes is total contact casting, however, recent studies have shown the modality is seldom used in the current clinical setting. Other offloading devices include removable cast walkers, half shoes, healing sandals, and, more recently, lightweight, rapidly custom-built braces.
There are various ways to apply pressure to the ulcer and utilize the off-loading technique with various types of shoes, walkers and sandals. These strategies have produced great results as they allow the area to heal at an accelerated rate.
Balance is Key in Diabetic Ulcers
When it comes to treating diabetic ulcers, it is important to strike a balance (as with most things). The most effective way for you to combat diabetic ulcers would be for you to ensure you follow a healthy diet, reducing sugar intake, exercising several times a week to increase blood flow and overall fitness, and not letting ulcers fester by starting treatment using any of the above-mentioned methods, or combination of methods, before the wounds turn nasty and fester.