Foot ulcers (open wounds on the foot) are a common complication of diabetes. As many as 25% of people with diabetes experience ulcers, and unfortunately, foot ulcers can lead to serious consequences (including amputation) if they’re left unattended.
As an experienced podiatrist, Dr. Ruben Nieto knows firsthand that the only way to reduce your risk of those serious complications is to treat foot ulcers as soon as you detect signs of trouble. Here, he explains the link between high blood sugar and foot ulcers and, most importantly, what you can do to prevent them.
The many dangers of high blood glucose
Hyperglycemia 一 more commonly referred to as high blood sugar 一 happens when your body doesn't use insulin properly or if you don’t have enough insulin. High blood glucose can cause sugar in your urine, and it can make you feel thirstier than normal. High blood sugar can also lead to excessive hunger, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, and vision problems.
If blood sugar isn’t controlled, it can lead to long-term complications, including:
- Blood vessel damage (including the blood vessels in your feet)
- Nerve damage
- Kidney damage
- Cataracts and other vision problems
- Foot problems due to poor circulation
Two of these long-term complications 一 nerve damage and poor circulation 一 explain the link between high blood glucose and foot ulcers.
High blood glucose and peripheral neuropathy
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage) is a key factor in about 90% of diabetic foot ulcers. Too much sugar in your blood can damage your nerves, and that includes the nerves in your feet.
Nerve damage is particularly problematic because it can cause numbness. For example, you might cut your foot and not even realize it. This can increase the time it takes for you to clean the wound and seek treatment. Nerve damage combined with poor circulation can lead to slow-healing wounds.
Not only are diabetic wounds slow-healing, but diabetic neuropathy also negatively impacts your immune system, which means if you have a wound, your body has a harder time fighting off bacteria and other pathogens, which may lead to infection.
Are foot ulcers avoidable?
Because foot ulcers increase your risk of gangrene and amputation, it’s important to implement as many preventive strategies as you can. Scheduling routine diabetic foot care appointments allows Dr. Nieto to inspect your feet for any red flags as well as trim your nails and remove calluses.
In addition to routine diabetic foot care, you can further reduce your risk of developing a foot ulcer by:
- Managing your blood sugar levels
- Inspecting your feet daily
- Keeping your feet clean and dry
- Wearing diabetic shoes to protect your feet
- Keeping your nails trimmed to avoid accidental scratches from your nails
- Wearing blister-resistant socks
- Skipping all at-home remedies and seeking podiatric care if you develop a sore
When you have high blood sugar, poor circulation, and peripheral neuropathy, even the smallest tissue injury (such as a small blister) can become problematic. Without the adequate circulation to promote healing, small injuries can quickly become infected. Diabetic wounds, including foot and leg ulcers, require immediate treatment.
If you have questions about foot ulcers and would like to schedule an appointment, call us at 661-238-7526 or use our online scheduling tool. If you have symptoms of a foot ulcer, don’t hesitate to take advantage of our walk-in clinic.