A diabetic ulcer is an open sore that occurs on the bottom of the foot of someone with diabetes. Generally these are painless because often the person lacks feeling in their feet known as neuropathy. A diabetic ulcer should never be self-treated even if it looks small or is not painful. Diabetic ulcers can lead to infection and even amputation if not treated properly. Once an ulcer is discovered, you should seek treatment from a podiatrist or wound specialist as soon as possible.
Diagnosis & Testing: Diabetic ulcers are diagnosed by examination. However, your doctor may want to order x-rays to see the underlying bones. Your doctor may also want to order vascular studies to determine if you have adequate blood flow to the foot to heal the ulcer. Sometimes your blood will be drawn and labs ordered. One critical lab your doctor will want to know from your blood work is if your blood sugars are controlled because elevated blood sugars can slow or prevent wound healing.
Treatment: There are many different treatments available for diabetic ulcers. Often these wounds develop a callus around the edges which your doctor will need to remove in order to allow the ulcer to close from the inside out. Your doctor will also likely prescribe a wound dressing to be applied to the ulcer. There are all types of wound dressings available and there are many factors your doctor will consider when deciding which wound dressing is most appropriate. One of the most important aspects in treating a diabetic ulcer is keeping pressure off of the wound. This may mean wearing a special shoe or boot, you may to have a special cast to offload the area or it may mean you have to remain completely non-weight bearing for a certain amount of time. Putting pressure on an ulcer by walking on it will slow healing and likely prevent the wound from healing.
When treated properly and immediately many wounds can be healed. The more time that passes before treatment is sought the longer it takes and the harder it is to heal an ulcer. If you are diabetic you should have your feet examined regularly, especially if you have poor circulation or neuropathy. By having your feet checked regularly by a podiatrist or your primary doctor, often foot problems can be prevented and, if a problem does occur, they can be caught quickly and treated.