Diabetic Foot Disease: Latest Treatment Options
By Natalie Sainz
There has been an emergence in diabetic foot care research that has seen an increased number of clinical trials published in the last few years. These trials have focused on new treatment, therapy and management options for diabetic ulcers.
Feet are the foundation of our lives, so it’s important to take care of them properly. Having diabetes puts you at risk for foot problems, which can come in the form of peripheral neuropathy, foot ulcers, and even extremely dry skin.
Diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs) are increasing worldwide with over 6 million ulcers annually. A DFU is an open sore or wound, most commonly on the bottom of the foot, that will not heal on its own without medical care. Neuropathy, peripheral artery disease, and infection can prevent people with diabetes from feeling cuts or scraps that they might have on their feet and are underlying causes for developing DFUs.
Untreated DFUs are one of the main reasons why diabetes is one of the leading causes of amputation in the United States. The good news is that DFUs are both preventable and treatable.
Commonly identified risk factors for developing a foot ulcer include poor glucose management, nerve disease, and arterial disease. Significant risk factors to reduce the risk of disease of the leg arteries or improve blood circulation should be addressed. These include smoking cessation and use of medicines to help stop smoking as well as statins regardless of cholesterol levels.
According to Prof. Andrew Boulton, former president of the International Diabetes Foundation, there has been a “renaissance” in diabetic foot care research that has seen an increased number of well-designed clinical trials published in the last few years. These trials have focused on new treatment, therapy and management options for diabetic ulcers.
For people who have nerve damage in their feet, it can be easy to unintentionally avoid foot problems that might arise. Boulton said that people with diabetes should keep the “PITS” in mind when caring for their feet: these are Prevention, Identification, Treatment, and Service. Detecting foot disease early enough is essential to prevent the disease from progressing to a point in which treatment won’t help.
Currently monitoring diabetic foot disease is done in the clinic; it includes pulse and temperature assessments, and other common tests such as the monofilament and tuning fork. Many innovative technologies are being studied as methods to detect diabetic foot disease. Healthcare providers have recently begun recording and analyzing foot temperature to detect various issues, as studies have shown a relationship between increased skin temperature and foot problems. So far, this new technique has successfully been able to show sites on the foot that are at highest risk for infection. Smart wound dressings, or dressings that could indicate when a change is needed (by changing color, for instance), are also in development.
But it’s important to monitor diabetic foot disease regularly at home. Here are some tips to consider when caring for your feet.
Clean your feet daily and use moisturizing lotion.
Perform a daily foot self-examination (preferably using a mirror to make sure you can see the bottom of your feet). Inspect for any infections, redness, blisters, and swelling.
Check your shoes for tears and sharp edges to make sure your feet aren’t scraping against anything.
You can learn more about treatments for diabetic foot ulcers here and further recommendations for caring for your feet.