Awareness and Prevention: How Do Diabetic Foot Ulcers Lead to Amputations?

The Amputation Prevention Centers of America says that nearly 1 in 5 diabetic foot infections require some sort of amputation. “If ulcers can be prevented, up to 85% of amputations may also be prevented,” says Dr. Francesco Squadrito, MD, of the University of Messina, Italy. It’s clear that diabetic foot ulcers many times result in amputations, but why? Shouldn’t we have more options for diabetic foot ulcer treatment in 2014?

diagram showing typical locations of foot ulcers

Foot ulcers usually appear on the bottom of the feet, but may also affect the toes.

Why Are Diabetic Foot Ulcers so Dangerous?

Diabetes is a systemic disease that affects many different body parts in different ways, often causing blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, and nerve dysfunction, among other maladies. Nerve dysfunction, in particular, can set a person up for developing a foot ulcer. If you can’t feel what you’re stepping on, then even a small injury could go untreated, thus opening you up to wound development. Once a deep blister erupts into a wound, all the bacteria, fungi, and viruses on your feet have an entryway into the body. When combined with poor circulation caused by elevated blood sugars and damaged arterial linings, the body will be unable to heal the wound. Ulcer development then begins, digging deep into tendons, muscles, or even bones. Gangrene occurs when blood and oxygen flow is reduced. Once that happens, there is little doctors can do to stop the spread of decay.

diabetes amputation

Diabetes leads to all sorts of serious complications, including amputation.

What Other Treatment Options Are There for Diabetic Foot Ulcers?

Prevention of diabetic foot infections and early ulcer interventions are the key to preventing amputation, says Dereck Hunt of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, in writing a clinical review for the journal American Family Physician. Diabetic patients should be aware of the risks associated with any foot injury and wear therapeutic footwear that offloads pressure. Removable cast walkers fitted by foot doctors can help. The use of topical growth factors seems to increase healing rates, as does systemic hyperbaric oxygen and debridement with proper wound dressing.

Once an ulcer has become infected, the only recourse is to try IV antibiotics at the hospital. Debridement may also be useful in clearing out damaged tissue before it can start spreading. Skin grafting is occasionally used, as well. Generally speaking, if a wound does not heal by at least 50% in four weeks, it is unlikely to heal at all, making amputation a foregone conclusion.

Prevent Diabetic Foot Infections by Limiting Exposure to Microbes

The good news is that roughly half of all lower limb amputations can be prevented through proper foot care. In addition to performing daily cleanses and foot inspections, we feel it is extremely important to limit the amount of pathogens you’re exposed to. The SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer is a clinically proven, podiatrist-recommended device that kills up to 99.9% of fungi, bacteria, and viruses in just one 45-minute treatment. Use daily to prevent your shoes from becoming festering Petri dishes. Order one risk-free for 30 days.