Diabetic foot ulcer causes can range from an acute injury to ongoing stress of the foot. The key underlying factor is a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus — but just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get a foot ulcer. Let’s dive into what causes diabetic foot ulcers.
A diabetic foot ulcer is an open wound or sore on the foot. It’s usually located on the bottom, but can develop in other areas of the foot, too. A foot ulcer can lead to broken skin, infection, gangrene, and, in worst cases, amputation.
You can get a foot ulcer with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, but again it’s not guaranteed. There are definitely factors that increase your risk.
What increases the risk of getting a diabetic foot ulcer?
There are several things at play when it comes to diabetic foot ulcers. If your blood sugar is high for a long time, you can develop nerve damage or diabetic neuropathy. This nerve damage means that you might lose feeling, or experience numbness, in parts of your body. This often occurs in the hands and feet.
When you can’t feel sensations like pain as well, diabetic foot ulcers become harder to catch. You might go several days or even weeks with a wound on your feet before you notice it. After all, it’s also hard to perform foot exams on yourself — especially if you have diabetic retinopathy, or diabetic eye disease, that causes your vision to be impaired.
The wound on your foot could start off quite innocently. You could stub your toe, walk in too tight shoes, or a rock might fall into your shoe. This acute injury might leave your skin sore or expose the tissue underneath.
For someone without diabetes, healing could be faster. When you have diabetes, you have to be more careful. High blood sugar slows healing down. If you have diabetic neuropathy, you’re struggling to feel the wound — and your body could be struggling to heal it.
As time goes on, these small wounds can become bigger. They can get infected. In some cases, it can require a diabetic amputation as a last resort.
How can I prevent a diabetic foot ulcer?
Diabetic foot ulcers are complications that can definitely be prevented. There are some best practices for foot health that can keep you one step ahead.
1. Perform daily foot checks
Every day, inspect your foot if you can. If you can’t on your own, ask a caregiver. If you live alone, you can ask your doctor to look when you visit them to care for your diabetes.
2. Always wear shoes
If you’re at higher risk of developing a foot ulcer, always wear well-fitting socks and shoes — even in your house. If you’re unsure, ask your doctor.
3. Stay in touch with your doctor
It’s especially important to keep up with your doctor’s appointments. They’re the perfect time to ask questions and help you be proactive about your health. With regular visits, you’ll be able to more easily loop in specialists as needed and get help before things advance.
Remember, if you notice anything concerning with your feet, please reach out immediately to your doctor. This could be pain, skin color changes, swelling, ingrown toenails, cracks, cuts, or drainage.
What causes diabetic foot ulcers: bottom line
Diabetic foot ulcers are caused by Diabetes mellitus, and by underlying conditions, like nerve damage, high blood sugar, and repetitive stress or acute injury. You can prevent them by staying on top of your overall health and your foot health.
You can also try thermometry-based solutions, which monitor the temperature of your feet to watch for signs of inflammation. This inflammation may lead a foot ulcer later down the road, but thermometry is a great way to catch temperature changes earlier.
While diabetic foot ulcers can be overwhelming, you can take things one day at a time. Keep in touch with your doctor, do what you can to keep your blood glucose levels low, and understand what causes diabetic foot ulcers in the first place.