The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

You’ve Got A Diabetic Foot Ulcer: Now What?!

Posted by on Tuesday, May 28th, 2013


Each year, there are over 80,000 lower-limb amputations on diabetics in America. “Diabetes is what has formed this industry and keeps it afloat,” Rob Burris, an artificial limb designer for Hangar Prosthetics tells KLAS-TV News. “If you look at all the numbers, from accidents, or illness, or cancer, they are nothing compared to the number people that lose them because of diabetes-related causes.”

Symptoms of Diabetic Foot Ulcers

A person with diabetes may have damaged nerves in the foot, which means he or she may not necessarily feel a foot ulcer begin to fester. Therefore, it’s very important to check the feet each day for the following signs of a diabetic foot ulcer:

– Redness

– Swelling

– Cracks in the skin

– Sores or open lesions

– Odor

– Pain

According to the Cleveland Clinic, a diabetic foot ulcer can be pink/red or brown/black, depending on circulation. The borders of the ulcer appear punched-out, with callused surrounding skin.

Medical Treatment of Diabetic Foot Ulcers

“A mainstay of ulcer therapy is debridement of all necrotic, callus, and fibrous tissue,” reports the journal American Family Physician. This means that all affected tissue will need to be surgically removed. Surgeons may use local or general anesthesia for the procedure. They may apply a genetically engineered gel to expedite healing or apply a human dermis skin graft to aid in your treatment. Even so, ulcers remain one of the more difficult complications to treat. According to a review of studies, 15 to 30% of people undergoing foot surgery will require limb amputation eventually.

Home Remedies for Diabetic Foot Ulcers

At home, patients should rest and elevate the affected foot to relieve pressure. Patients may also uses crutches or a wheelchair to take the pressure off the feet. A course of antibiotics will need to be completed, as directed. Pain medication may also be prescribed. Generally, patients will stay in the hospital for a few days following debridement, but sometimes a nurse will visit the patient’s home to re-bandage the wound every day or two. Expect healing to take at least several weeks.

It is important that patients seek medical help and avoid trying to treat their ulcers themselves at home. Though there are a number of over-the-counter topical enzymes, gels and medications promoted for diabetic ulcers, none of these have been proven effective. You definitely do not want to use a topical antiseptic (such as iodine) — as these “are usually considered to be toxic to healing,” reports American Family Physician. The practice of soaking ulcers is considered controversial because neuropathic patients can be easily scalded without realizing it.

Prevention of future diabetic foot ulcers involves: quitting smoking, protecting the feet from sharp objects, checking the feet daily, trimming the nails properly, moisturizing the skin daily, and ensuring proper shoe type and fit.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.