Examining Diabetic Foot Facts: Exactly How Serious Is the Condition, and How to Cope?

We often hear that diabetics need to “inspect their feet everyday”… but is it really necessary? How many people with diabetes really suffer from complications like the loss of sensation in their feet, diabetic foot ulcers, gangrene, and life-threatening infections? Aren’t amputations a thing of the past, given the advances in modern science? The makers of a UV shoe sanitizing device have compiled a few pertinent statistics that illustrate just what a serious issue diabetic foot health is.

foot inspection

Daily foot inspections should be part of a diabetic’s everyday life.
Image source: Flickr user Elvert Barnes

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Veterans & Diabetic Foot Ulcers: A Review of Existing Research

More than 25% of veterans have been diagnosed with type II diabetes. That means 1 in 4 people receiving care at Veteran Administration (VA) hospitals are being treated for the disease. According to the U.S. government, service members who were exposed to Agent Orange have an increased risk of developing diabetes. Last year, the Detroit Free Press reported that the number of diabetes cases rose from 135,000 to nearly 323,000 in the past nine years. That’s more than 10% of the military personnel who went to Vietnam.

vietnam veterans agent orange

Diabetes is the most prevalent disease among Vietnam veterans.
Image Source: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Tristan Miller via

In fact, more Vietnam vets are receiving compensation for diabetes than for any other health issue, including post-traumatic stress disorder, hearing loss, or general wounds. The average veteran receives about $3,000 for diabetes care alone. Along with diabetes comes the risk of diabetic foot ulcers, which occur when pressure causes breaks in the skin and those slow-healing wounds become infected.

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Examining the Medical, Drug, and Work Loss Costs of Diabetic Foot Ulcers

Healthcare cost in America has been a hot topic in the news for the past several years, as our nation’s leaders look at ways to curb expenses and make top-level care more affordable for the masses. At the very least, the economic burden of diabetes-related complications should remain a motivator for individuals with the disease to strive toward careful health management.

Did you know that the average cost to heal a diabetic foot ulcer is $8,000? For a wound that has become infected, this number skyrockets up to $17,000, according to a report published in Clinical Diabetes, the official journal of the American Diabetes Association. Beyond the medical bills, the cost of diabetic foot ulcers to society is astronomical.

diabetic foot ulcers

Diabetic Foot Ulcers result from a complex interaction of multiple risk factors.

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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.

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Addressing Concerns for Diabetics: Skin Care Products for Pressure Ulcer Prevention

Shoe Care Innovations invented the SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer as an easy way of ridding one’s footwear of bacteria and fungi that could otherwise thrive and multiply into enormous colonies and cause festering foot infections. Ultraviolet light is a safe, natural, and effective method of preventing pathogens from reproducing or doing the body any harm. For people with diabetes, it’s especially important to keep the feet as clean and sanitized as possible. Our microbe-fighting product is one step in preventing diabetic foot infections. Prevention of an ulcerous break in the skin is another important factor to consider, so we’ve compiled a list of pressure ulcer prevention products.

antimicrobial cleanser

HibiClens is a hospital-grade antimicrobial cleanser diabetics can use on their feet.

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Rising Incidence of Type 1 Diabetes Prompts Emphasis on Child Foot Care

Type 1 diabetes cases skyrocketed 21% from 2000 to 2009, according to a new study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies’ meeting in Vancouver, Canada, this month. Similarly, the rate of Type 2 diabetes associated with obesity jumped more than 30% during that time. Nationwide, there are nearly 167,000 children with Type 1 diabetes and over 20,000 with Type 2 diabetes. “Every new case means a lifetime burden of difficult and costly treatment and higher risk of early, serious complications,” said study author Dana Dabelea from the Colorado School of Public Health. Foot ulcers can be one of these complications, but not if you follow our child foot care advice.

diabetes epidemic

The incidence of Type I and II diabetes is increasing among children.
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Watch Your Feet: Photos Reveal How a Diabetic Foot Infection Can Grow in Just 10 Days!

We’re not going to post the photo of a ten-day-old diabetic foot infection directly, out of respect for some of our more squeamish readers. After all, it is shockingly gruesome! It is almost beyond comprehension just how rapidly diabetic foot damage can spread once the blistering begins.

If you are curious and would like a punch in the gut to fully comprehend the gravity of diabetic foot ulcers, then by all means, click here to see the photo. If you’d rather not see it, we understand. We will at least tell you about what happened to the poor 50-year-old man who suffered the lesions on his feet.

diabetic foot ulcer

Diabetic foot wounds can progress rapidly, so prevention is the best cure.
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What Causes A Diabetic Foot Ulcer?

Diabetic foot ulcers are more than just open wounds that take too long to heal. For many diabetics, they can be a death sentence. A slow-healing wound leaves the body open to infection, putting the patient at risk for developing gangrene that requires amputation. Following the horrific ordeal, 5-10% of amputees die during initial hospitalization, and another 50% die within the next five years. That being said, there are ways to limit your risk of developing a foot ulcer. For diabetics, prevention is the best cure! But first, we’ll discuss what causes diabetic foot ulcers.

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Are Home Diabetic Foot Ulcer Sensors The Way Of The Future?

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have noted a 65% drop in diabetic foot amputations from 1996 to 2008, there are still over 100,000 people requiring amputation from a diabetic foot ulcer each year. New technology may bring this number down significantly in the coming years, as we look for better ways to detect ulcers early and prevent serious injury.

diabetic foot ulcer

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Amniotic Fluid Aids In Diabetic Foot Wound Treatment

KSAT News tells the story of a man named Rocco LoBosco who was told he’d lose part or the whole foot and possibly even his leg after diabetic ulcers covered his little toe. However, Dr. Richard Jacoby of the Scottsdale Neuropathy Institute in Scottsdale, Arizona was able to save the man’s feet and restore feeling to the tissue using amniotic fluid from pregnant donors.

How Does Amniotic Fluid Help Cure Diabetic Foot Ulcers?

“Amniotic fluid seems to meet the criteria to develop new tissue,” said Dr. Jacoby. During the procedure, the amniotic fluid is injected into the nerve during decompression surgery. The stem cells stimulate the injured area with essential nutritional materials and mesenchymal stem cells to prompt aggressive healing. In the same way a laser treatment may stimulate bone healing, the amniotic fluid appears to send a strong message to the body to heal. Of the 16 nerves Dr. Jacoby has experimented on, he has managed to restore sensation in all of them. However, he is careful to clarify that amniotic fluid does not cure diabetic neuropathy altogether, but it can use remaining nerve function to clear up the ulceration.

stem cell therapy

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According to Dr. Bruce Werber of InMotion Foot & Ankle Specialists, amniotic membrane and fluid has been cryopreserved to be used on anyone at anytime. “We don’t have to have a live birth to collect it, and it can be harvested in very clean, sterile conditions. We inject it in and around the wound, and it enhances the healing,” he said. Recovery started to occur within days of treatment in all 20 of his patients, he notes, and 90 percent of the wounds have closed within the last year.

What Is Decompression Surgery?

Over the past 18 months, amniotic fluid has been used in conjunction with decompression surgery. This type of surgery is nothing new,with the first surgery performed in 1984. During the procedure, the medial, carpal tunnel and ulnar nerves were relieved of pressure by cutting tight tunnels around the nerves to allow for swelling and decrease pressure from surrounding structures. This procedure is considered minimally invasive, as the surgeon uses specialized surgical instruments and makes a very small incision. Dr. Jacoby says he’s done over 3,000 decompression procedures over the past 13 years and has not had even one amputation out of the group.

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Complementary Diabetic Foot Wound Treatments Include Sterilization.

Individuals who have had their feet treated in such a manner certainly do not want to risk the possibility of re-infection in the future. Therefore, it is imperative that these patients check their feet for cuts, blisters and other injuries on a daily basis. It’s also a wise idea to use a UV shoe sanitizer to kill harmful bacteria and fungus that may collect in the shoes and cause a problem later down the road.