Diabetes - foot ulcers

Alternate Names

Debridement of skin ulcers

What to Expect at Home

If you have diabetes, you may have an increased risk for developing foot sores, or ulcers. Foot ulcers are the most common reason for hospital stays for people with diabetes. It may take weeks or even several months for your foot ulcers to heal. Diabetic ulcers are often painless.

Whether or not you have a foot ulcer, you will need to learn more about taking care of your feet.

Debridement

Debridement is the process to remove dead skin and tissue. Your doctor or nurse will need to do this to be able to see your foot ulcer. There are many ways to do this.

One way is to use a scalpel and special scissors.

Other ways to remove dead or infected tissue are to:

Taking Pressure off of Your Foot Ulcer

Foot ulcers are partly caused by too much pressure on one part of your foot. Be sure to wear shoes that do not put a lot of pressure on your foot. Try not to have pressure over the ulcer too.

Your doctor may ask you to wear special shoes, or a brace or a special cast. You may need to use a wheelchair or crutches for awhile. These devices will take the pressure off of the ulcer area. This will help speed up the healing process.

The type of shoes you wear when you have diabetes is important:

Wound Care and Dressings

You will need to do these things to care for your wound:

Your doctor or nurse may use different kinds of dressings to treat your ulcer.

Wet-to-dry dressings are often used first. This process involves applying a wet dressing to your wound. As the dressing dries, it absorbs wound material. When the dressing is removed, some of the tissue comes off with it.

Other types of dressings are:

Keep your dressing and the skin around it dry. Try not to get healthy tissue around your wound too wet from your dressings. This can soften the healthy tissue and cause more foot problems.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor if you have any of these signs and symptoms of infection:

Also call your doctor if your foot ulcer is very white, blue, or black.

References

American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes -- 2012. Diabetes Care. 2012 Jan;35 Suppl 1:S11-63.

Inzuchi SE, Sherwin RS. Type 2 diabetes mellitus. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Saunders; 2011:chap 237.

In the clinic. Type 2 diabetes. Ann Intern Med. 2010 Mar 2;152(1):ITC1-16. 

Inzucchi SE, Sherwin RS. Type 1 diabetes mellitus. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011: chap 236. 


Review Date: 9/4/2012
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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