Diabetic Foot Infections: Should You Opt for Antibiotics or Surgery?

Diabetics are at an increased risk for infection. Some estimates indicate that diabetic patients are 10 times more likely to develop soft tissue infections, including everything from upper respiratory and urinary tract infections, to gastrointestinal issues and flesh-eating bacteria. Diabetic foot infections from Staphylococcus bacteria are one of the most common causes of hospitalization for diabetics. Often, patients do not realize they have an infection until an ulcer forms. At this point, they may be faced with the question — should the infection be treated with antibiotics or surgery?

diabetic foot infections

Diabetic foot infections like MRSA and Staph are 10 times more likely in diabetic patients and have very dire consequences. Image Source: Medscape.com

The Case for Treating Diabetic Foot Infection With Antibiotics

A study of 52 patients with diabetes and foot osteomyelitis found that treatment with antibiotics yielded similar results to patients treated with surgery. Of those given antibiotics, 75% were healed after three months, compared to 86.3% of the surgery group, which was statistically insignificant. Healing time was one week quicker for patients on antibiotics. Four patients taking antibiotics worsened and needed surgery, compared to three patients who had surgery requiring a secondary operation. 

diabetes antibiotics

The effectiveness of antibiotics often depends upon patient compliance, so be sure you are taking your pills as directed by a physician. Image Source: TenerBuenaSalud.com

When Diabetic Foot Surgery Is Needed

When a foot infection progresses, it may inflame and infect the bone in a condition referred to as osteomyelitis. Ulcers that are more than 2 centimeters large or deep are often associated with deeper infections. By the time the signs of infection are noticed — 10 to 20 days after the infection has started — 40 to 70% of the bone may already be lost. In the cases of serious, chronic osteomyelitis, surgical intervention is essential, along with antibiotic therapy. In rare cases, amputation may be necessary.

What Can Diabetics Do To Prevent Infection?

Since the feet come into the most direct contact with our environment, it stands to reason that many diabetic infections are contracted through cuts, calluses, corns, blisters, ingrown toenails, and other foot aberrations. The SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer is one of the best weapons to keep your feet as sanitary as possible.

We pay so much attention to washing our feet with soap and water, as well as putting our socks through the wash, but our germ-infested shoes get forgotten. Using UV light to kill up to 99.9% of the bacteria in our shoes within one 45-minute treatment is a podiatrist-recommended method of sanitization.

germicidal uv

Germicidal UV light can kill Staph and other dangerous bacteria living in your shoes to reduce your overall exposure. Image Source: ACDirect.com

Here are a few other tips to prevent diabetic foot infections:

– Use warm water and antibacterial soap on your feet.

– Dry your feet thoroughly before putting socks on.

– Alternate shoes to avoid wearing wet footwear.

– Treat excess foot moisture with foot powder or antiperspirant.

– Check your feet for problems every day.

– Rub lotion on dry feet, but not in between the toes.

– File corns and calluses with a pumice stone or emery board after a shower.

– Clip toenails each week.

– Wear sanitized slippers or shoes to protect the feet from injury.

– Use socks to prevent blisters.

– Shop for shoes at the end of the day when they are most swollen to ensure you have a good fit.

– See a podiatrist regularly for annual exams and check-ups.

– Look into having Medicare or your insurer cover the cost of special diabetes shoes.

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