Diabetic Foot Ulcers (DFU) is a common issue in diabetic patients who reside in nursing homes.
As a wound care nurse, there’s a good chance that you’ll work with a resident or patient suffering from diabetic foot ulcers which is why it’s important to understand what it is and what kind of treatments are available.
What is Diabetic Foot Ulcer?
As the name implies, diabetic foot ulcer occurs in approximately 15% of diabetic patients. It’s an open sore or wound usually found at the bottom of the foot.
They are classified as ulcers caused by the neuropathic and small blood vessel complications of diabetes that include ulcerations, infections, and gangrene.
It is currently estimated that around 6% of people who develop foot ulcers end up hospitalized because of infections and possible complications.
Most people who develop foot ulcers have usually lost the ability to feel pain which is why pain isn’t always a symptom though it could be.
The most common signs and symptoms of diabetic foot ulcers are redness and swelling as well as the appearance of drainage in the patient’s socks. If the disease has progressed already, an odor may be present.
Open lesions, cracks, and pus are also common symptoms. The likelihood of a foreign object getting stuck in the foot is also a possibility especially if the patient does not feel pain anymore, quite common in diabetic patients since they have diabetic neuropathy leaving their feet with poor or no sensation. it is advised that patients with diabetes thoroughly checked her feet every day to make sure there are no cracks or foreign bodies in the feed since they have poor sensation.
Any person who has long-standing diabetes can develop a diabetic foot ulcer. More common in diabetics who use insulin as well as patients with other diabetes-related complications, hence being at a higher risk.
Lifestyle choices like being overweight, smoking, and excessive alcohol may also lead to the development of foot ulcers.
Ulcers occur due to a number (and combination) of factors that include poor circulation, irritation, lack of sensation in the foot, foot deformities, and trauma, among others.
A significant contributing factor is neuropathy which occurs in people with diabetes. Patients who develop neuropathy may exhibit reduced if not a total inability to feel pain due to nerve damage as a result of the elevated blood glucose levels.
Other factors also include uncontrolled blood sugar, foot deformities, and wearing inappropriate shoes.
If left untreated, DFU can lead to serious complications and may put the patient at risk of infection, getting hospitalized, amputation, and death.
That being said, it’s important to immediately visit a wound doctor if the patient develops a wound in the feet
While a foot ulcer is considered a serious health condition, there are ways to prevent its development.
Apart from regular medical care, the following should help keep patients from developing this disease:
Proper wound care and debridement of wounds
Lowering of blood sugar
Early treatment of infection
Restoring adequate blood flow
Reducing friction and pressure
Diagnosis and Treatment
The key to treating foot ulcers is to treat and heal them as soon as possible. The faster they are treated and healed, the lesser the risk of developing an infection.
Below are some of the proper treatments that can be applied to foot ulcers:
Off-loading or the practice of taking the pressure off the area affected
Debridement or the removal of dead skin and tissue
Blood glucose management
Proper medication and wound dressing
With over 90% of diabetes-related amputations attributed to diabetic foot ulceration, there’s no question that proper and immediate wound care should be a priority for patients suffering from this disease.
As a nurse in a skilled nursing facility setting, getting wound certified will also help provide patients the proper care and treatment they need to avoid possible infections and further complications.