How To Protect Your Feet from Diabetic Ulcers

Photo of a doctor examining a foot.
Your PT can help you maintain proper foot health.. Lisa Blue/Getty Images

Question: As a diabetic, how can I prevent foot ulcers from developing?

Answer: People with diabetes are especially prone to developing foot sores and ulcers due to decreased sensation and impaired wound healing. The most effective way to prevent dangerous ulcers from forming is to perform daily foot inspections.

How to Properly Perform a Foot Inspection for Ulcers

You should inspect your feet daily for signs of redness, swelling, or small cuts.

It is important to look in between each toe as well as to look at the bottom of your feet. You can use a mirror to make it easy for you to check the bottom of your feet.

If your toe nails are too long, carefully trim your nail straight across. Do not treat any corns or bunions without the assistance of your physician. A visit to your podiatrist is a good idea to assist with toe nail care.

You should also keep your feet dry, and be sure they remain dry throughout the day. It is a good idea to never walk barefoot, especially outside where you may be prone to stepping on sharp objects that may damage the skin of your feet.

If you see any redness or suspicious areas, contact your physician immediately.

What About Relieving Foot Pressure While in the Hospital?

If you are a patient in the hospital, maintaining skin integrity of your legs and feet is a top priority. Sometimes, it may be difficult for you to move around in bed after illness or injury, and excessive pressure may build up under your heels or feet, leading to pressure ulcers.

If you are hospitalized, a physical therapist may visit you in your hospital room to help you manage foot pressure to prevent ulcers. Things your PT may do to ensure that you prevent developing pressure ulcers may include:

  • Helping you inspect your feet
  • Ensuring proper padding is applied under your feet and legs
  • Teaching you proper bed mobility techniques to help relieve pressure from bony prominences
  • Prescribing exercises, like ankle pumps, to help improve circulation
  • Prescribing exercises to help you improve your overall mobility

If any redness or skin irritation is seen, you must inform your doctor right away. He or she can work with you to ensure that you keep pressure off your feet to prevent ulceration and pressure sores.

If your condition worsens and progresses through more severe stages of ulceration, your PT can still work with you to try to promote appropriate wound healing and to help you maintain mobility while your wound is healing.

Your PT may assist with wound care by using various techniques, including:

  • Sharp debridement of your wounds
  • Electrical stimulation to promote circulation
  • Wound dressing changes and monitoring

Diabetic foot ulcers are a problem that can have serious consequences if left unchecked. If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor to learn what you can do to prevent skin irritation and breakdown, and visit your PT to ensure that you maintain appropriate mobility to keep diabetic foot ulcers at bay.

Edited by Brett Sears, PT, Expert in Physical Therapy.

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