Diabetic Foot Ulcers – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Overview

Diabetic foot ulcers are open sores or wounds that develop as a result of the damage to the arteries and nerves caused due to prolonged diabetes. According to available data, there are around 422 million diabetes patients around the world and diabetic foot ulcers affect nearly 15 percent of them. The incidences of diabetic foot ulcers are known to increase with age and the complications of untreated foot ulcers can be severe. It is also a fact that around 70 percent cases of foot amputations have the factor of diabetic foot ulcers associated with them.

Causes of diabetic foot ulcers

The causes of diabetic foot ulcers include:

  • Very high blood glucose causing delayed healing
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Peripheral Neuropathy due to diabetes
  • Kidney or heart disorder associated with diabetes
  • Frequent consumption of alcohol

Signs and Symptoms of diabetic foot ulcers

Diabetic foot ulcers develop with a minor injury to the foot. Following are the signs and symptoms of the development of diabetic foot ulcers:

  • Swelling and soreness around the wound
  • Malodorous discharge from the wound
  • Forming of a black tissue around the wound
  • Numbness in the area of the ulcer
  • The skin surrounding the ulcer becomes thicker
  • Pain when you try to touch the wound/ulcer

Stages of a diabetic foot ulcer

  • Stage 0: Skin remains intact
  • Stage 1: Development of a minor or superficial ulcer
  • Stage 2: Deep ulcer reaching up to the bone or joint
  • Stage 3: Formation of an abscess in the ulcer
  • Stage 4: Death of tissues in the forefoot
  • Stage 5: Gangrene spreading to the complete foot

Diagnosis of diabetic foot ulcers

The diagnosis of diabetic foot ulcers may involve the following tests:

  • Medical History and Physical exam: Your doctor will ask questions like your medical history, when you first noticed the ulcer, if you have peripheral neuropathy, etc. The doctor will then inspect your foot and feel your pulse to evaluate the rate of blood flow
  • X-ray: X-ray examinations are conducted to look for any misalignment in bones which may have contributed to the formation of the ulcer. X-ray images also give an idea about the loss of bone mass, which can lead to problems in the future.
  • MRI scans: Your doctor may conduct MRI scans to assess the extent of damage caused by the ulcer. MRI scans may also be required to look for signs of inflammation or infection.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests are recommended when the doctor notices signs like redness, swelling and warmth in the affected foot. Blood tests are conducted to look for infections in the ulcer.

Treatment of diabetic foot ulcers

Proper and timely treatment of diabetic foot ulcer is required otherwise serious complications can arise.

Ayurvedic Management of Diabetic foot ulcer

Ayurvedic measures can be an effective solution to prevent the foot ulcer from worsening. These medicines aim to control diabetes and keep your blood sugar levels in check so that the foot ulcer does not deteriorate. Some of the best Ayurvedic medicines for diabetes patients are:

  • Basant Kusumakar Ras
  • Haritaki
  • Chandraprabha Vati
  • Madhusam Powder
  • Swaran Shila

However, it should be noted that these medicines do not treat the already existing wound. Therefore, relying solely on Ayurvedic medicines is not a wise decision. Debridement: Debridement can be a very effective procedure for treating diabetic foot wounds in the early stages. Debridement is an intervention procedure that speeds up the healing of the wound. In debridement, the doctor removes the dead and infected tissues from the wound using a scalpel. The doctor then places a sterile bandage on the wound which needs to be replaced at regular intervals.

Surgery for diabetic foot ulcers

In the severe cases of diabetic foot ulcer, vascular surgeries are required. The most widely performed vascular surgery for the purpose is atherectomy followed by balloon angioplasty.

Atherectomy and Balloon Angioplasty

Atherectomy is a surgical procedure that is performed to make the arteries wider. Widening of the arteries facilitates the proper supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the wound so that optimal healing can be achieved.In Atherectomy, the doctor uses laser energy or a rotating blade to remove the plaque, calcium and fat layers from the artery. This makes the artery wider and improves blood circulation.Many a time, Atherectomy is followed by another procedure called balloon angioplasty. In Balloon Angioplasty, the doctor inserts a stent in the artery to hold it open. This ensures continuous and proper flow of blood through the artery.

Home remedies for diabetic foot ulcers

  • Flaxseed oil : Flaxseeds are enriched with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats contain healthy fats that majorly help in repairing blood vessels. Flaxseed oil also keeps arteries flexible and functional. Keeping the vascular system is very necessary for the fast healing of foot ulcers. Therefore, flaxseeds are an amazing remedy to get relief from diabetic foot ulcers.
  • Psyllium : Psyllium maintains the insulin and sugar levels in the body. This is a highly recommended herb for the patients of diabetes, especially those who suffer from diabetic foot ulcers.
  • Aloe Vera : Aloe vera is rich in anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.These properties make aloe vera a strong remedy for diabetic foot ulcers. You can apply aloe vera gel on the diabetic foot ulcer to get fast soothing results. You can also have a glass of aloe vera juice every day to boost your immunity and promote the healing of the foot ulcer.
  • Honey : Honey is certainly a very popular remedy for the condition of diabetic foot ulcers. It has antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. These properties of honey readily help in protecting the wound against any infection.
  • Coffee : Coffee stimulates the central nervous system and boosts blood circulation. Thus, coffee acts as a remedy in improving the blood flow and the immune response in the condition of diabetic foot.
  • American Ginseng: Ginseng helps in improving diabetic foot infection. It also prevents the infection from attacking the body. So, ginseng supplements are very effective in curing diabetic foot ulcers.

Diet for diabetic foot ulcers

  • Vitamin E : Vitamin E is crucial for overall good health. Vitamin E initiates the fast healing of diabetic foot ulcers. It stimulates the blood circulation and improves the body’s ability to stop the infection in the foot ulcer.
  • Foods rich in Magnesium : Have more magnesium in your regular diet such as spinach, pumpkin seeds, black beans, avocados, and bananas. Dark chocolate is very helpful in the condition of diabetic foot ulcers.
  • Zinc : Zinc boosts the production of insulin that controls the blood sugar level. It also promotes the fast healing of the skin tissues. Thus, having foods and supplements rich in zinc help in providing you fast healing from the troublesome foot ulcers. Eggs, legumes, and nuts are the rich natural sources of zinc.

Exercises for diabetic foot ulcers

There is no particular exercise that you need to follow. You just need to stay active and practice mild exercises regularly. Regular exercise will help you maintain proper blood sugar levels . Exercise also improves the circulation of blood and oxygen throughout the body, thereby promoting faster healing. Just make sure that you do not excessively pressurize your feet while exercising.

Complications of diabetic foot ulcers

  • Infection in the skin and bones
  • Abscess formation
  • Foot deformities
  • Charcot foot
  • Partial or complete gangrene
  • Amputation

Prevention of diabetic foot ulcers

  • Keep your blood sugar levels in check
  • Wash your feet with warm water everyday and keep them clean
  • Keep your feet moist
  • Trim your toenails properly. Remember not to cut them too short.
  • Check your feet regularly for any cuts, wounds or blisters
  • Avoid wearing poorly fitted shoes
  • Refrain from smoking and consuming alcohol

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