What If I Don't Treat My Diabetic Foot Ulcer?

Diabetic foot ulcers are a very serious condition related to advanced diabetes. It is an open sore on the foot that is caused by increased pressures beneath the foot. As pressure builds, many diabetics won't feel the discomfort or pain, because their feet are numb from diabetic peripheral neuropathy. The pressure builds and the skin ultimately breaks down and an ulcer forms.

As unsettling as a diabetic foot ulcer appears, it is amazing to me that not all diabetics rush to get the ulcer evaluated. I am a Houston podiatrist and regularly see patients coming in for an initial check of a diabetic foot ulcer and many don't even know how long the wound has been there. Some have been present for weeks and others for months while the patients were waiting to see if it would heal on its own.

An untreated diabetic foot ulcer is very dangerous indeed. Without eliminating the pressure in the area of the wound, the wound will continue to deepen, extending through the skin and into the muscles, tendons and bone. This puts the foot at an exceptional risk to become infected. As it stands, someone with diabetes is at greater risk of developing an infection. Adding a diabetic foot ulcer to the mix is like rolling out the red carpet for one.

An infected diabetic foot is a medical emergency, always requiring antibiotics, often resulting in a hospital stay and requiring surgery to clear the infection. Surgery to drain the infection add additional risk and reduces the function of the foot. Because of many diabetics' poor circulation, the surgical wound may not heal well, but is necessary to save the life and limb of the patient.

An infected foot that does not resolve or heal can lead to amputation. The amputation can be of a toe, part of the foot, or even the leg. Once an amputation occurs, the chances for additional amputation is very high. Amputations decrease the life expectancy and quality of life of the patient.

Pretty scary, right? The scariest part is that this is seen by podiatrists every day, including those in Houston, where we have a high prevalence of diabetes. Don't become a statistic. If you or someone you love has a diabetic foot ulcer, get it treated immediately to prevent it from getting out of control.
Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.
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