Ask Baystate Medical Center: Keeping feet healthy essential in diabetics

Friday, February 09, 2018

Question: I’m a diabetic. I know some patients with diabetes require amputations. How do I decrease the risk of getting an amputation?

Answer: Diabetes is a chronic disease that requires medical attention, but the patient also plays an important role in managing the disease. Risk factors for diabetes include being overweight and a familial predisposition for the disease. Symptoms of diabetes include thirst, frequent urination, sugar in the urine, high blood sugar and becoming tired easily.

A diabetic can get a wound that may not heal, because of infection, poor blood flow or problems with nerves. The nerve problem can either cause pain and tingling or decrease your ability to feel pain in your feet and lower leg. Diabetes can also harm your vision. All of this may delay the diagnosis of a diabetic foot or ankle ulcer, which if untreated, increases the risk of amputation.

Treatment for diabetes includes weight control, exercise, monitoring blood sugar levels, taking insulin or anti-diabetes medicines, and having regular visits with your health care provider.

Diabetic ulcers occur on the feet, heel or toes in patients with diabetes. Many times there is little feeing in the feet, and an ulcer may not start to heal as would normally be expected.

Diabetics should inspect their feet daily. They should avoid using over the counter products to treat their feet. They should only trim their toenails straight across the toe. If trimming the nails is difficult, they should seek treatment with a podiatrist.

Diabetic patients should wear footwear that protects any foot ulcer and does not cause rubbing or pressure. If a foot ulcer becomes red and swollen or develops drainage, or if you get a fever, you should see your primary care practitioner. This may be a sign of serious infection.

Diabetics with foot ulcers should seek care with a wound clinic, such as ours, to provide the most up to date treatment for these ulcers, and to arrange to have off-loading shoes, boots or casts to assist in the healing of the ulcer and the prevention of amputation.

Additionally, some diabetic foot ulcers are best treated with hyperbaric oxygen treatments, which is treatment that we offer at the Baystate Franklin Wound Center. These specially pressurized oxygen chambers that are effective in healing many diabetic foot ulcers.

We will be happy to answer your questions about diabetic foot care at 413-773-2441.