If you're suffering from diabetes, high blood sugar may damage the nerves and blood vessels leading to your feet. Through a combination of poor circulation and reduced sensation, you could encounter injuries that you don't address, which then turn into ulcers or wounds that are difficult to heal. Diabetic foot occurs in 15% of people with diabetes, but there are ways to prevent it from happening and treat it as it arises.
Controlling your blood sugar
If you're at the early stages of diabetic foot, controlling your blood sugar goes a long way towards preventing extensive damage. Your doctor, or a diabetic nurse who is part of their team, will assess your current blood sugar control. Together, you can form a management plan that may involve altering medications and a healthier diet, which you can then use to keep your blood glucose within a healthy range.
When assessing your feet, your surgeon will likely look at your footwear to see if it's suitable. Footwear that's too tight or worn places pressure on bony areas of your feet. While those without damage to their peripheral nerves will notice this and respond accordingly, reduced pain sensation means you're likely to ignore it, which in turn results in ulcers and sores. Comfortable footwear and orthotics can prevent pressure sores, which in turn reduces your risk of diabetic foot.
Medical and surgical interventions
If your vascular surgeon identifies problems at a later stage, they may need to use medical and surgical interventions to prevent the wound worsening. When such wounds become infected, high blood sugar make it easier for bacteria to grow, which then makes them more difficult to treat. Ways your surgical team can prevent this include:
- Swabbing the wounds and providing you with appropriate antibiotics that prevent the spread of infection.
- Applying dressings with topical ointments that reduce inflammation and promote a faster wound healing process.
- Debriding the wound, which means removing dead and infected tissue to ensure nearby healthy tissue remains intact.
- Performing a bypass of the blood vessels on your feet to ensure the area around the wound receives oxygen and benefits from a quicker healing process.
While you may associate your vascular surgeon and their involvement with your diabetes to include surgery only, they'll take lots of steps to ensure you avoid going under the knife first. Wherever possible, working alongside them and other members of their multidisciplinary team to achieve a healthier lifestyle will benefit your health far more than waiting for the point where surgical intervention is a must.