Signs of trouble
Contact your doctor if you have:
- Ingrown toenails
- Plantar warts on the soles of your feet (flesh colored bumps with dark specks)
- Athlete's foot
- An open sore or bleeding
- Warmth in one area
- Pain (though you may not feel anything if you have nerve damage)
- Discolored skin
- A foul odor
- An ulcer that lasts longer than one to two weeks
- An ulcer bigger than 3/4 inch (2 centimeters)
- A sore that doesn't quickly begin to heal
- An ulcer so deep you can see the bone underneath
Your doctor will inspect your foot to make a diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate course of treatment.
What if amputation is the only option?
Treatments for foot ulcers vary depending on the severity of the wound. In general, the treatment employs methods to remove dead tissue or debris, keep the wound clean, and promote healing. Wounds need to be monitored frequently, at least every one to four weeks.
When the condition results in a severe loss of tissue or a life-threatening infection, an amputation may be the only option.
A surgeon will remove the damaged tissue and preserve as much healthy tissue as possible. After surgery, you'll be monitored in the hospital for a few days. It may take four to six weeks for your wound to heal completely.
In addition to your primary care doctor and surgeon, other medical professionals involved in your treatment plan may include:
- An endocrinologist, who is a physician with special training in the treatment of diabetes and other hormone-related disorders
- A physical therapist, who will help you regain strength, balance and coordination and teach you how to use an artificial (prosthetic) limb, wheelchair or other devices to improve your mobility
- An occupational therapist, who specializes in therapy to improve everyday skills, including teaching you how to use adaptive products to help with everyday activities
- A mental health provider, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, who can help you address your feelings or expectations related to the amputation or to cope with the reactions of other people
- A social worker, who can assist with accessing services and planning for changes in care
Even after amputation, it's important to follow your diabetes treatment plan. People who've had one amputation have a higher risk of having another. Eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, controlling your blood sugar level and avoiding tobacco can help you prevent additional diabetes complications.
Aug. 08, 2017
See more In-depth
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- Gregg EW, et al. Changes in diabetes-related complications in the United States, 1990-2010. New England Journal of Medicine. 2014;370:1514.
- Standards of medical care in diabetes — 2017. Diabetes Care. 2017;40:s1.
- Beaney AJ, et al. Factors determining the risk of diabetes foot amputations —
A retrospective analysis of a tertiary diabetes foot care service. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice. 2016;114:69.
- Diabetes and foot problems. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/foot-problems. Accessed June 21, 2017.
- Today's podiatrist talks about diabetes. The American Podiatric Medical Association. http://www.apma.org/diabetes. Access June 21, 2017.
- The management of diabetic foot: A clinical practice guideline by the Society for Vascular Surgery in collaboration with the American Podiatric Medical Association and the Society for Vascular Medicine. Chicago, Il.; Society for Vascular Surgery. https://vascular.org/research-quality/clinical-practice-documents/clinical-practice-guidelines. June 21, 2017.
- Weintraub AC, et al. Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and management of diabetic infections of the lower extremities. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed June 20, 2017.
- Amputation. Society for Vascular Surgery. https://vascular.org/patient-resources/vascular-treatments/amputation. Accessed June 21, 2017.