Skin ulcers appear when the skin is broken and the underlying tissue becomes visible. the ulcers can affect either the feet or the lower legs hence the condition is commonly known as diabetic foot. They typically heal by themselves in a few days or weeks. However, in diabetic patients the skin cut either heal extremely slowly or it does not heal at all, thus making the area more susceptible to developing ulcer.
Diabetes is known to have several serious complications, not only is the sensation in the feet reduced and the nerves damaged due to the high blood sugar levels but the arteries that go to the feet are also affected by the condition and this is precisely what increases the risk for foot ulcers. Also, the nerves that are responsible with feeling pain (the pain receptors) in the feet are impaired as well, and this is what makes it harder for diabetics to figure out when they have a cut or a wound in their legs.
Diabetes also increases the risk for narrowed arteries, and the risk for peripheral vascular disease that can result in atheroma, a medical term used to describe the accumulation of fatty deposits on the arteries. If the blood flow to the feet is impaired, the skin will not heal as faster or as good as it should be, which means that even the minor cuts or injuries take more time to heal and this is precisely what increases the risk for ulcer.
However, the diabetic foot is not the only aspect that can increase the risk for foot ulcer – a history of foot ulcers, diabetes-related complications or foot problems (bunions) are three other risk factors. Also, if you are prone to grazes, corns or cuts or if you do not wear adequate footwear (which means that your shoes put too much pressure of your feet) your risk for developing foot ulcers is also higher.
Foot ulcers are not dangerous if treated correctly and quickly, and the good news is that they are typically very responsive to treatment. However, those who suffer from other conditions such as diabetes may find it difficult to treat their foot ulcers given the impaired blood flow, and this is what makes them more susceptible to infections and gangrene.
The most important thing is to inspect your feet regularly and to have them inspected by a professional as well, at least once a year. Only a doctor can identify non-visible problems like poor blood circulation or loss of sensation. Foot examinations are crucial for preventing ulcers. However, if you have noticed an ulcer it is important to go to your doctor right away, as he will teach you how to take care of it in order to minimize the risk for infection and to speed up the healing process.
It often happens that ulcers are covered with protective dressing and the hard skin that surrounds the ulcer is removed by the doctor, to promote good healing. Padding and special footwear may also be required, depending on the extent of your foot ulcer as well as on the gravity – the purpose of these special shoes is to lower the amount of pressure you put on the wound and to allow it to quick faster.
If you develop an infection, your doctor will administer antibiotics and in some cases, even a small surgery may be required to clear all the puss. The more severe cases of foot ulcers that are usually triggered by poor blood flow require extensive by-pass surgeries to widen the arteries.
It is extremely important to seek medical attention immediately if you have discovered a foot ulcer, and not to try and treat the wound yourself – your vascular doctor is the only one who can recommend you a treatment for your wounds. If the wound becomes infected and it is not treated correctly, then the infection can spread to your joints or bones, making it particularly difficult to treat even with the most powerful antibiotics. In some cases, this can result in the amputation of the limb, this being the only solution to save the life of the patient.
To seek treatment for your diabetic foot, make an appointment with our vein clinic in Singapore for a comprehensive consultation and prompt treatment.