November is American Diabetes Month, a time when all Americans should take a moment to evaluate the importance of preventing and controlling this pervasive disease. Diabetics also have to take added precautions to prevent a common affliction of the disease, diabetic foot ulcers.
At any given moment somewhere between 4% and 10% of diabetic patients will have a diabetic foot ulcer and over a lifetime of diabetes, a quarter of diabetic patients will experience a diabetic foot ulcer. The more risk factors are present, the more likely a diabetic foot ulcer will occur. In high risk groups it is not uncommon for nearly half of the patients to develop a new ulcer every year.
More troubling still is that approximately 3-5% of cases, the ulcer will become severe enough that an amputation will need to be performed in order to save a leg or even the patient’s life. Approximately 80,000 limb amputations are performed every year as a consequence of diabetic foot ulcers. When critical limb ischemia is present, 13% of patients will have an amputation.
Diabetic foot ulcers don't just pose significant health issues; the costs can also be staggering:
• The cost to heal a simple diabetic foot ulcer is about $5,000-$6,000, assuming prompt treatment
• Cost for patients with infected ulcers or with peripheral arterial disease is nearly $21,000 on average at today’s prices.
• Minor amputations (e.g. big toe) initially cost $23,000 on average while below the knee amputations cost $53,000
• Annual cost of diabetic foot ulcers in the USA is about $12.5 billion
Many diabetic foot ulcers can be prevented through routine foot care by both the patient and his or her physician or podiatrist. Proper fitting of shoes are also important. Other recommendations include wearing seamless socks or stockings, changing socks or stockings daily, avoiding garters or elastics that are tight around the legs and, of course, walking daily. Since early detection is always the best defense against any ailment, diabetics should check their feet regularly for signs that a problem may be developing.
With appropriate and aggressive care, most diabetic foot ulcers will heal. However, delays in treatment or inappropriate treatment can cause wounds to progress and may require foot or leg amputation even in low risk patients.
When should a diabetic patient consider visiting a specialized Wound Care Center®?
• When a wound has failed to show significant healing in 4 weeks of standard care (no meaningful decrease in wound size, for example)
• When a wound involves deep tissue structures, or is limb- or life-threatening.
The Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Services at Jupiter Medical Center encourages and welcomes the opportunity to evaluate, manage, and effectively treat anyone who may be experiencing chronic wounds, such as diabetic ulcers. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 561-263-5760.