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Wound Facts & Prevention

About Diabetic Foot Ulcers

What are Diabetic Foot Ulcers?

  • Diabetic foot ulcers are open sores that often do not heal and may lead to serious complications. In many cases, these ulcers provide an entry route for infection-causing bacteria that may lead to further complications

Causes of Diabetic Foot Ulcers

  • People with diabetes are prone to foot ulcers because of complications associated with diabetes: neuropathy (loss of feeling), poor circulation, and diminished response to infection
  • These factors may act in combination with other factors such as biomechanical abnormalities, limited joint mobility, callus formation, improper footwear and psychosocial factors
  • People with diabetes with numbness or loss of sensation in their feet may not notice minor foot injuries, such as poor-fitting footwear or a stone in the shoe. And due to their diminished response to infection, any small cut or sore can develop into a foot ulcer. Neuropathy can also cause structural deformities in the foot that can compound minor injuries to the foot
  • Healthy circulation helps heal minor injuries to the feet. Due to poor circulation, a complication of diabetes, the blood supply to the limbs and feet may be reduced, leading to slower healing and an increased risk of infection
  • Undetected foot problems, such as a blister or ingrown toenail, can lead to serious complications if left untreated. Infection, ulceration and gangrene can result. Without early recognition and treatment, there's a risk of losing a limb to the disease. Many of the amputations caused by diabetic foot ulcers could be prevented by early detection
  • Diabetic foot ulcers occur most often in patients over the age of 40; 90 percent of Americans with diabetes are in this age group

Diabetic Foot Ulcers and Amputation

  • Diabetic foot ulcers that are left untreated can lead to complications that may result in amputation of the toes, foot or entire limb
  • Each year, 50,000 - 70,000 amputations are performed on people with diabetes in the United States

Survival Rates After Amputation

  • After 1 major lower extremity amputation
    • 3-year survival rate is 50%
    • 5-year survival rates is 40%
  • Contralateral amputation
    • 42% of patients 1 to 3 years after first amputation
    • 56% of patients 3 to 5 years after first amputation

Cost of Diabetic Foot Ulcers

  • Diabetic foot ulcers are the leading cause of hospitalization among diabetic patients and the complications of diabetic foot ulcers often lead to amputation. These wounds are conservatively estimated to cost the United States healthcare system over $1 billion per year
  • The tremendous toll of diabetic foot ulcers to individuals and society demonstrates the need for better treatments for these devastating and costly wounds
  • Increased healing time is directly proportional to increased costs
  • Diabetic foot ulcers have a negative impact on quality of life for both patients and care givers