Despite the fact that we may not think a lot about those things dangling at the bottom of our legs, we use a lot of idioms that reference them. When you speak of having cold feet or itchy feet, you often mean being scared or wanting to wander. Putting up your feet implies relaxation and rest, and standing on your own two feet means taking charge of your own actions. Foot ulcers are something you definitely want to take charge of, especially if you are diabetic. Caring for them may mean the difference between being knocked off your feet or standing fast.
Having Feet of Clay
Your lower limbs put up with a lot of abuse during your lifetime. Unfortunately, if you have diabetes they are vulnerable to more problems. This is because the disease has two common complications involving your nerves and blood vessels.
The condition can cause peripheral neuropathy—nerve damage in your extremities. You may lose sensation in them, and thus not realize that you have an injury such as a scrape, cut, or puncture wound. This means you keep walking on them and the condition gets worse.
Diabetes also affects your blood vessels when fatty deposits (atheromas) build up along the walls and cause a narrowing. This restricts your blood flow, and thus the proteins and nutrients your cells need to regenerate may not reach the area as quickly. Slow-healing sores can develop into larger ulcers and infections can set in.
Getting Back on Your Feet
There are several ways to treat foot ulcers—some you can do at home and some require medical assistance. The first thing you will want to do is decrease any pressure on the sore. If it is on the sole of your foot, this may even mean limiting your walking for a while. At the least, you will want to make sure the bottom of your foot is protected with well-cushioned shoes or even extra inserts. We may also recommend special surgical boots or the use of crutches or a wheelchair if necessary. The more you can keep your weight off the lesion, the quicker it will heal.
Debridement is another method of helping your ulcer heal. We use one of several ways to remove the dead tissue from the sore so the good tissue can grow. In our office, that may involve cutting it out with scalpel or special scissors. Don’t ever try to do this yourself! This procedure should only be done by those who are trained to do it properly. Other methods of treatment we may use include a syringe and catheter to wash dead tissue away, wet dressings that pull the dead skin away as they dry, or enzymes to dissolve the tissue. In some cases, we can train you, a family member, or a home-visiting nurse to replace the dressings.
Vote with Your Feet
You can make a big difference in your own healing process by making a decision to control your blood sugar levels, choose shoes that protect and cushion your lower limbs, and keep your feet clean and dry. Eventually, your sore will heal and you can begin walking around like normal again.
Podiatrist Iain Palmer welcomes the opportunity to help you in the process. If you notice a sore, don’t let the grass grow under your feet. Get over to the Palmer Foot Clinic in Winnipeg, Manitoba or call us at (204) 697-0649 to set up an appointment. Our staff has years of experience treating diabetic foot ulcers. We can answer your questions and help you get back on your feet.