An estimated 15% of people with a diabetic foot ulcer will experience amputation.
As part of Diabetes Awareness Month and every day, staff in the Baystate Medical Center Wound & Hyperbaric Medicine Center want to make sure those with diabetes know how to keep their feet healthy.
Preventing foot ulcers
The Baystate Medical Center Wound & Hyperbaric Medicine Center recommends the following to help prevent diabetic foot ulcers:
- Stop smoking immediately
- Have comprehensive foot examinations each time you visit your healthcare provider (at least four times a year)
- Conduct daily self-inspections of the feet, or have a family member perform the inspection
- Take regular care of the feet including cleaning toenails and taking care of corns and calluses
- Choose supportive, proper footwear (shoes and socks)
- Take steps to improve circulation such as eating healthier and exercising on a regular basis.
Diabetes may be accompanied by other co-existing conditions such as blindness, heart disease, kidney failure or lower-limb amputation.
Many unaware they have diabetes
An estimated 30.3 million people in the United States (9.4 percent of the population) have diabetes, including 7.2 million who are unaware they are living with the disease. The percentage of adults with diabetes increases with age, reaching a high of 25.2% among those aged 65 years or older. In addition to age, risk factors for diabetes also include diet, activity level, obesity and heredity.
High blood sugar levels, poor circulation, immune systems issues, nerve damage and infection may contribute to a non-healing diabetic foot ulcer. Approximately 15 percent of people living with diabetes will develop a foot ulcer. An estimated 14-24 percent of people with foot ulcers will experience an amputation. Even more alarming, people with an amputation have a 50 percent mortality rate within five years.
There are several common factors of diabetic foot ulcers including neuropathy, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), deformities and Charcot foot. Neuropathy is a result of damage to peripheral nerves and often causes weakness, numbness and pain in hands and feet. Similarly, PAD is caused by narrowed arteries which reduces blood flow to the limbs. Charcot foot is a deformity that results from nerve damage in the foot or ankle, which may cause injuries to go untreated, leading to the breakdown of joints.
Denise Dowd, program director, Wound Care & Hyperbaric Medicine at Baystate, notes proper wound care techniques are imperative to healing diabetic foot ulcers. Debridement, Offloading or Total Contact Casts (TCC), Negative Pressure Wound Therapy and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) are a few of the leading-edge treatments offered at Baystate's Wound & Hypercbaric Medicine CenteCare Center®. Debridement, the removal of damaged tissue, is widely recognized as one of the most important methods of advanced wound care. Total Contact Casting, also known as off-loading, relieves pressure from the wound and is considered the gold standard for the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers. As part of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, patients receive 100 percent oxygen and an increased atmospheric pressure inside an acrylic chamber. These specialized wound care therapies can aid in wound closure, new tissue growth, wound tissue regeneration and much more.
To make an appointment
For more information about diabetic foot ulcers and how the Wound Care Center helps diabetic patients to avoid amputation, call (413) 794-8640.