Foot ulcers, or sores, are the most common type of wounds that affect people with diabetes. Approximately 15 percent of people with diabetes develop foot ulcers, which can have serious complications if they don’t heal properly.

People with diabetes are at greater risk of foot problems because increased blood sugar levels can cause vessels in the feet and legs to narrow and harden, which reduces blood flow to the wound. Insufficient blood flow can slow healing and increase the risk of infection. In addition, diabetes can damage the nerves in the feet and result in reduced or lack of sensation, called peripheral neuropathy. This lack of sensation in your feet can prevent you from noticing a blister or callus, which can develop into a diabetic ulcer.

Diabetes is the leading cause of non-traumatic lower-extremity amputations in the United States, so it’s important to take care of your feet and see your doctor immediately when problems arise to avoid infection and serious complications. Foot blisters, calluses or sores can be a warning sign of a limb-threatening disorder, so it’s essential to be aware of any changes to your lower legs and feet.

Preventing Diabetic Ulcers

The good news is diabetic foot ulcers can be prevented by careful control of diabetes and proper foot care. If you’re diabetic, you should be examined by your Ohio State doctor every six months to check for peripheral neuropathy. Controlling blood sugar levels can help prevent or limit peripheral neuropathy, as well as peripheral arterial disease. You can also lower your risk of developing diabetic ulcers by:

  • Exercising daily to improve blood flow to your feet
  • Checking your feet daily for redness, blisters or sores, including the areas between your toes
  • Keeping toenails trimmed properly — unless you have peripheral neuropathy, in which case your doctor should evaluate them regularly
  • Wearing properly fitting shoes
  • Never cutting calluses or corns. Talk to your doctor about removing them
  • Testing bath water with your hand, rather than your feet, to prevent scalding

Use a mirror if necessary to inspect your feet. If you notice anything, call your Ohio State doctor. Neglecting even a small cut can lead to serious complications, so it’s important to identify problems early.

Personalized Treatment

At The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, we design a personalized treatment plan to promote healing as quickly as possible to prevent infection. The Ohio State University Comprehensive Wound Center’s specialized team works closely with doctors and other health care professionals to address underlying causes, such as endocrinologists, vascular specialists, dietitians and other caregivers.

Depending on the severity of your wound, your treatment could involve taking pressure off the area, footgear, braces, crutches or a wheelchair. Your Ohio State doctor may also use medications or special dressings to improve healing. We offer a full range of advanced therapies from hyperbaric oxygen therapy and minimally invasive vascular procedures to complex reconstructive surgery, such as skin grafts, flap surgery and other advanced procedures.

Wound care team members also help you learn how to care for your wound properly and prevent the condition from occurring in the future. We work closely with your doctor to make sure you continue to heal and have the information you need to maintain good health. 

Learn more about services Ohio State offers for the care of diabetes.

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