With the start of American Diabetes Month on Thursday, Scotland County health officials are urging diabetics to take added precautions to prevent a common affliction of the disease, diabetic foot ulcers.
At any given moment somewhere between four percent and 10 percent of diabetic patients will have a diabetic foot ulcer and over a lifetime of diabetes, a quarter of diabetic patients will experience a diabetic foot ulcer.
The more risk factors are present, the more likely a diabetic foot ulcer will occur, according to Dr. Brian Parkes, Scotland Wound Healing Center medical director. In high risk groups it is not uncommon for nearly half of the patients to develop a new ulcer every year, he said.
“More troubling still is that in approximately three to five percent of cases, the ulcer will become severe enough that an amputation will be necessary in order to save a leg or even the patient’s life,” Parkes said. “Approximately 80,000 limb amputations are performed every year as a consequence of diabetic foot ulcers. When critical limb ischemia is present, thirteen percent of patients will have an amputation.”
Diabetic foot ulcers don’t just pose significant health issues, the costs can also be staggering:
• The cost to heal a simple diabetic foot ulcer is about $5,000-$6,000, assuming the patient receives prompt treatment.
• The cost for patients with infected ulcers or with peripheral arterial disease is nearly $21,000 on average at today’s prices.
• A minor amputation (e.g. big toe) initially costs $23,000 on average while below the knee amputations cost $53,000.
• Annual cost of diabetic foot ulcers in the USA is about $12.5 billion.
“Many diabetic foot ulcers can be prevented through routine foot care by both the patient and his or her physician or podiatrist,” said Paula Love, RN, the Wound Center’s director. “Proper fitting of shoes are also important. Other recommendations include wearing seamless socks or stockings, changing socks or stockings daily, avoiding garters or elastics that are tight around the legs and, of course, walking daily. Since early detection is always the best defense against any ailment, diabetics should check their feet regularly for signs that a problem may be developing.”
With appropriate and aggressive care, most diabetic foot ulcers will heal. However, delays in treatment or inappropriate treatment can cause wounds to progress and may require foot or leg amputation even in low risk patients.
The center will be providing free foot checks at the upcoming Diabetes Fair on Nov. 29. For information, call 910-291-7711.