Less than half of diabetic foot ulcers heal within 1 year.
Patients with diabetes have a higher risk of numerous comorbid conditions, including slow-healing ulcers that develop due to damaged nerves and blood vessels in the feet. Since these slow-healing, chronic wounds are prone to infection, a significant number of patients lose limbs or receive multiple amputations.
Despite preventative measures that can be taken, millions of individuals with diabetes develop foot ulcers. A new study published by Diabetic Medicine suggests that diabetic foot ulcers are much more likely to result in an amputation than previous research has suggested.
The authors discovered that more than half of patients had an ulcer that did not heal for more than a year, with numerous patients having a partial or full amputation of their foot, according to the study.
These results suggest that patients at risk of diabetic foot ulcers should be monitored to prevent costly and disabling amputations. Since the ulcers are common among patients with poor circulation, obesity, or restricted mobility, it is likely that this problem will only continue to grow as cases of type 2 diabetes increase.
Included in the study were 299 patients who had received care at a diabetes clinic for an infected foot ulcer. Patients were followed up with for 1 year.
After 1 year, the authors discovered that 1 in 7 patients had part or all of their foot amputated, while only 45.5% of patients had an ulcer that healed, according to the study.
The authors said that the results of the study were worse than previously expected.
"Foot ulcers are a very nasty condition,” said lead researcher Andrea Nelson. “They're painful and are debilitating. People with foot ulcers have limited mobility, and that brings with it a whole set of other risk factors - obesity and heart disease, for example.”
The authors said these findings highlight the importance of preventing diabetic ulcers and quickly treating the ones that occur to prevent amputations.
Recently, the CDC recommended multiple ways that patients can use to prevent diabetic foot ulcers, including managing the condition better, practicing good self-care, and seeking professional care from a podiatrist.
"The key point is that people need to be seen quickly if an ulcer begins to form - that gives health workers the greatest chance of trying to treat the condition,” said researcher Dr Michael Backhouse, "The results of our study are important and should help clinicians caring for patients with diabetes to identify those most at risk for poor outcomes so that we can look to provide further support."