Do you or someone you know have diabetes? If so, then it’s important to be aware of complications that can arise such as diabetic foot wounds. “The lifetime risk of developing a foot ulcer for someone with diabetes is 25 percent,” says Dr. Gerard Furst, a podiatrist at Mather’s Wound Treatment Center.

While there’s a lot to manage when it comes to having diabetes, such as taking medications and staying on top of your blood sugar, it’s crucial to also pay attention to your feet.

What is a diabetic foot wound?

A diabetic foot wound is an open sore or wound commonly found on the bottom of the foot, possibly under your big toe or the balls of your feet. These wounds are typically found in people with type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus and who have neuropathic or vascular complications.

Some symptoms that can arise when there is an infection are:

  • Unusual swelling
  • Irritation
  • Discharge of fluid or pus
  • Redness
  • Odor

While there are symptoms that are specific to a diabetic foot wound, there can also be minimally systemic signs of infections even in the presence of a severe case, according to an article published in the National Library of Medicine. Due to this, it’s important to schedule regular exams with your healthcare provider and have them determine if you are at risk for an infection.

Treatment options

Depending on the severity of the infection, treatment options may include:

  • Drainage of any fluid or pus
  • Debridement – removing or cutting away any dead or infected tissue
  • Prescribing oral or IV antibiotics
  • Wound offloading – removal of any weight or pressure from the wound to allow it to heal
  • Specialized dressings to stimulate wound healing
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
  • Other surgical procedures (shaving down the foot bone, reconstruction, vascular surgery, etc.)

Healing and aftercare

Infections should be treated as soon as possible to prevent further spread. Depending on the specific wound and treatment provided, healing time can vary from weeks to several months. Dr. Furst says that early identification of a foot ulcer along with a comprehensive treatment plan will afford the patient the best chance of healing and avoiding amputation.

It’s also crucial that once the wound has healed, the patient continues to follow up with a treatment plan provided by their doctor to help prevent a recurrence. According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, “roughly 40% of patients have a recurrence within one year after ulcer healing, almost 60% within three years, and 65% within five years.”