An estimated 29.1 million people (9.3 percent of the population) have diabetes, and nearly 28 percent are undiagnosed. In addition, about 86 million US adults have prediabetes and more than 77 million of them are unaware.

“Age, diet, activity level, obesity and heredity are all risk factors for diabetes,” said Susan Garner, M.D., UHC Wound Care. “People with diabetes can also experience co-existing conditions such as stroke, blindness, heart disease, kidney failure and lower-limb amputation.”

In 2010, nearly 73,000 adults aged 20 years or older with diagnosed diabetes received non-traumatic lower-limb amputations. This accounts for 60 percent of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations.

“Even more alarmingly, people with an amputation have a 50 percent mortality rate within five years,” said Dr. Garner. “Diabetes related amputations may result from chronic wounds caused by diabetes, especially diabetic foot ulcers. It is estimated that 25 percent of people living with diabetes will develop a diabetic foot ulcer.”

There are several common factors of diabetic foot ulcers including neuropathy, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), deformities and Charcot foot. Neuropathy is a result of damage to peripheral nerves and often causes weakness, numbness and pain in hands and feet. Similarly, PAD is caused by narrowed arteries which reduce blood flow to the limbs. Charcot foot is a deformity that results from nerve damage in the foot or ankle potentially causing injuries to go untreated leading to the breakdown of joints.

Dr. Garner recommends the following tips to help prevent diabetic foot ulcers:

  • Stop smoking immediately
  • Comprehensive foot examinations each time you visit your healthcare provider (at least four times a year)
  • Daily self-inspections of the feet, or have a family member perform the inspection
  • Regular care of the feet including cleaning toenails and taking care of corns and calluses
  • Choose supportive, proper footwear (shoes and socks)
  • Take steps to improve circulation such as eating healthier and exercising on a regular basis
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Proper wound care techniques are imperative to healing diabetic foot ulcers. Debridement, Offloading or Total Contact Casts (TCC), Negative Pressure Wound Therapy and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) are a few of the leading edge treatments offered at UHC Wound Care. Debridement, the removal of damaged tissue, is widely recognized as one of the most important methods of advanced wound care. Relieving pressure from the wound, also known as off-loading, Total Contact Casting is the gold standard for the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers.

Finally, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is where a patient receives 100 percent oxygen and an increased atmospheric pressure inside an acrylic chamber. These specialized wound care therapies can aid in wound closure, new tissue growth, wound tissue regeneration and much more.

For more information about diabetic foot ulcers or how UHC Wound Care may be able to help avoid amputation, contact the Dr. Garner at UHC Wound Care located at 916 West Main Street in Bridgeport at (304) 842-1034.