Diabetic foot care and foot ulcer treatment tips

Diabetic foot care and foot ulcer treatment tips

Just like houses are built on foundations, your feet carry your body weight: two relatively small body parts that act as the foundation for your entire body. And just like houses, if there’s something wrong with your foundation, or in this case, your feet, it can affect your whole structure from the bottom up.

As caregivers, maintaining proper foot care for yourself and the person in your care is important and can be a concern, especially if one or both of you have diabetes.

As caregivers, maintaining proper foot care for yourself and the person in your care is important and can be a concern, especially if one or both of you have diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that, if poorly managed, could lead to neuropathy (nerve damage) in the extremities like hands and feet. Nerve damage can make activities like walking or standing difficult and painful, and negatively affect a person’s sense of balance, which can lead to injuries due to falls.

A diabetic person with nerve damage in their feet could also potentially step on a sharp object and not even realize that they’ve been injured. An untreated wound or lack of blood flow to the extremity because of nerve damage may even lead to amputation of the limb. See our article Diabetic Foot Care Tips For Caregivers.

What are foot ulcers?

A foot ulcer is an open sore on the foot and can range from anywhere between a shallow, red crater that affects only the surface skin, to a very deep crater that goes through the full thickness of the skin. It can be very difficult to heal a foot ulcer, especially diabetic foot ulcers, so it’s important to do everything possible to prevent infection because it can develop into:

  • An abscess: a collection of pus under the skin
  • Cellulitis: a spreading infection of the skin and underlying fat
  • Osteomyelitis: bone infection in the feet
  • Gangrene: an area of dead, darkened body tissue caused by poor blood flow

First aid for foot ulcers

If you notice a foot ulcer in your own foot or in the foot of the person in your care:

  • Wash any minor scrapes or skin openings gently
  • Apply an antiseptic cream and cover with a bandage
  • See a nurse practitioner or medical doctor for advice
  • If the area around the wound becomes hot, red, swollen, smelly, or painful, see a health practitioner immediately

Remove the cause of foot ulcers

Fifty per cent of foot ulcers begin because of two reasons:

  1. Friction - Two surfaces rubbing across one another
  2. Shear – Usually caused by poorly fitting shoes where pulling and damage of underlying tissues is caused by the bone moving one way but the skin does not

Our Elizz article, What are pressure ulcers and how can they be avoided? has more information on pressure ulcers caused by friction and shear.

If you have, or the person in your care has a foot ulcer, speak to a chiropodist (a doctor who specializes in feet) or pedorthotist (pedorthics is the design and fitting of footwear) about what options are available to take the pressure away, such as professionally fitted footwear or an off-loading device.

Eat a balanced diet

Energy and nutrients are required to heal wounds. Choose foods that are well balanced, provide vitamins and minerals, and include protein such as meats, fish, milk, and peanut butter.

A dietician can work with you and the person in your care by discussing the foods that you both like and can afford, and create a meal plan that you are likely to stick to. See also our Elizz article called Nutrition and Wound-Healing Foods for more information.

Preventing foot wound infection

Here are some tips you can use to prevent a foot wound from becoming infected:

  • Follow the wound care advice provided by the doctor or nurse, including how to clean the foot wound and apply the most appropriate dressing
  • Don’t walk barefoot on the ground. It is covered with bacteria, which can enter an open, unprotected wound
  • Wear cotton diabetic socks designed to control moisture and reduce risk of fungal infection. Fungus causes inflamed skin that may be red, itchy, and leak fluid. Contact a health care practitioner if you think you or the person you’re caring for has a fungal infection
  • Wipe your shower down after each use with an antiseptic solution
  • If you or the person in your care is diabetic, monitor blood sugar levels closely. Rising sugar levels might indicate the start of an infection. Early treatment will help reduce the risk

In Canada, Elizz is the place for all things caregiving offering care support services to family caregivers as well as care support for those in your care.

To learn more about diabetic foot care, or foot care in general, or to speak with a care professional, please call Elizz at 1-855-Ask-Eliz (275-3549).

 

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