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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 Wikimedia.org

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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When Foot Health is Not an Option: Ulcer Recurrence Is a Huge Problem for Diabetics

Of the 26 million Americans with diabetes, 65,700 patients receive lower limb amputations each year. Diabetes itself does not cause the need for amputation, so how does a person wind up in such a troubling position? The fact is, minor sores can turn into big problems for individuals with diabetes, especially when one’s footwear is covered in bacteria. A goal of Shoe Care Innovations is to provide diabetics with tools they can use at home to maintain a more sanitary environment and decrease exposure to harmful pathogens that could cause life-threatening foot infections.

foot amputations

Diabetes is responsible for more than 60% of all non-traumatic lower limb amputations.
Image Source: FDiabetes.Wordpress.com

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The Dysvascular Foot & How It Leads To Infection

A “dysvascular foot” refers to a foot that has a defective blood supply. This condition is most frequently found in diabetics, and is directly caused by chronic heightened blood sugar levels which cause nerve damage over time. This nerve damage is called “neuropathy.”

According to FW Wagner,  dysvascular patients make up 80% of the thousands of patients who undergo lower extremity amputations. He created a scale to help doctors figure out how to determine the severity of a patient’s foot infection. Hopefully you will keep a close eye on your diabetic foot hygiene, so you never have to worry about such trouble.

wagner scale

FW Wagner created a scale to help doctors determine the severity of a dysvascular diabetic foot. Image Source: PhysicalTherapy.com

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Obesity and Foot Care: How Does Being Overweight Affect My Feet?

Being overweight or obese is difficult enough — never mind all the foot problems that come along with it! A study published in the journal Arthritis Care Research found that 51% of those surveyed who said their foot health was only “fair” or “poor” were obese. Increasing body mass index is “strongly associated with foot pain and disability,” the authors concluded.  Not only that, but overweight and obese populations may find it difficult to reach their feet to care for them properly, which leads to a whole set of foot hygiene issues.

obesity feet

More than half of the people who are obese also suffer from foot problems. Image Source: AdvancedFootCareClinic.Blogspot.com

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Diabetes Foot Care: The Importance of Keeping Minor Injuries At Bay

“Diabetes is a chronic condition that can result in multiple complications if improperly managed,” says Dr. Bella Zimilevich MD. With type I diabetes, pancreatic cells are unable to produce insulin in order to regulate blood sugar levels. With type II diabetes, the body cannot use insulin properly. Some women get gestational diabetes while they are pregnant, but the condition goes away later. No matter which type of diabetes you have, you will be more likely to suffer diabetes foot complications than someone who does not have the condition.

diabetes foot care

Image Source: OakleafMedical.com

 

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FDA Cracks Down On Illegal Diabetic Foot Care Products

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned 15 companies to reform false advertising claims on diabetes treatment products or face prosecution, according to Gant Daily NewsUnfortunately, many of the products on the market promise much and deliver little. There are many diabetic foot care products that are not FDA-approved, but continue to sell to desperate consumers who want a quick fix for their feet. The FDA has been cracking down on rogue internet pharmacies peddling cheap, unregulated drugs online, says Medical Daily NewsAs of June 2013, more than 1,600 online pharmacies in an organized crime network were shut down.

diabetic foot cream

Image Source: Navarro.com

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