“I woke up one morning and noticed that the bottom of my foot was sore. It was tender to the touch and the pain was excruciating to walk. I knew right away that I needed to get into the doctor and have it evaluated,” said Ralph Dobler of Manning.
Although Ralph had experienced the effects of diabetes for several years prior, he was following a proper diabetic diet, he was watching his health and ensuring he was keeping active. Unfortunately, Ralph had learned the hard way a few years prior that if he doesn’t take care of his wounds, it could lead to amputation.
“I knew that if we could get on top of the wound right away that we would have the potential to save my foot. At 74 years old, Ralph has been dealing with the side effects of diabetes for many years.
More than 29.1 million Americans have diabetes and sixty to seventy percent of people with diabetes have limited or no feeling in their feet. “It’s much easier to treat a minor foot problem before it becomes serious,” said Kendra Tiefenthaler, RN, Clinical Coordinator for the MRHC Wound Care Center.
The wound care team believes that Ralph’s immediate attention to the issue and willingness to commit to weekly treatments until the wounds were healed is what ultimately prevented him having an amputation.
Approximately 25-30% of patients with diabetes develop a foot sore or ulcer. Though foot ulcers can be anywhere on the foot, most occur on the ball of the foot or on the bottom of the big toe.
There are several reasons why diabetic patients have foot problems, but the most common reason is that they suffer from nerve damage called neuropathy, which causes loss of sensation in the feet. These patients also suffer from poor circulation, which can make your foot less able to fight infection and heal.
Signs of a Possible Foot Ulcer:
- Lack of sensation (feeling) in your feet
- Feeling of “pins and needles” in your feet
- Feet hurt while walking or resting
- Sores don’t heal
- Skin on your feet becomes thick, dry or scaly,
- Calluses develop easily on the soles of your feet
“At MRHC, we have the ability to treat any open wounds caused from vascular complications, post-surgical procedures, diabetes and more,” said Tiefenthaler. “Oftentimes patients will see the most benefit from weekly treatments where the provider addresses any concerns, evaluates wound progress, and cleans/redresses the wound to ensure timely healing.”
How to care for your feet and prevent diabetic ulcers:
- Check your feet daily. Look for blisters, cuts and scratches. Use a long-handled mirror or place a mirror on the floor to see the bottom of your feet. Always check between your toes.
- Keep your feet clean. Wash daily, dry carefully – especially between the toes.
- Moisturize your feet. Apply a moisturizer as recommended by your physician, but never apply between toes as that can lead to a fungal infection.
- Do not walk barefoot. That includes on sandy beaches and pool/patio areas.
- Wear properly fitted shoes. Shoes should be comfortable when purchased. Do not wear narrow, pointed toe or high-heeled shoes.
- Inspect the inside of your shoes daily. Check for foreign objects, tears or rough areas on the inside of the shoe.
- Do not wear shoes without socks or stockings. Wear clean, properly fitted socks. Cotton or cotton-blend socks are recommended.
- Avoid temperature extremes. Test water temperature with your hand or elbow prior to bathing. Do not soak your feet in hot water or apply a hot water bottle. If your feet feel cold at night; wear socks.
- Trim your toenails regularly. Always cut your nails straight across.
- Do not use over-the-counter remedies for corns. See a podiatrist to have these evaluated.
- Avoid crossing your legs. This causes pressure on the nerves and blood vessels, resulting in less blood flow to your feet.
As we wrap up American Diabetes Month, MRHC wants to remind people with diabetes that they are at a higher risk for non-healing foot wounds – and therefore amputations – than most Americans. One in four patients with diabetes will develop a foot ulcer in their lifetime. The wound healing center at MRHC can provide guidance for prevention and treatment of these wounds.
If you are experiencing pain or complications from an open wound, contact the MRHC Wound Care Clinic at (712) 655-8100 to request a wound care consultation or treatment. Physician referrals are not required.