SSM Health Medical Minute – Foot health is critical for those living with diabetes

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A wound on the foot can be a serious health issue, especially for people with diabetes. Diabetes is a systemic disease that can increase the risk of chronic or non-healing wounds. For individuals with diabetes, there’s no such thing as a minor foot wound. If left untreated, foot ulcers may lead to infection, amputation and even death.

If you’ve had diabetes for eight years or more, you are likely to have nerve damage that can reduce or even eliminate feeling in your feet, leaving you unaware of any existing injury. It is necessary for people with diabetes to perform a daily foot exam and to seek medical attention for any new or non-healing foot ulcers. Treatment at a specialized wound care center can prevent the loss of lower limbs.

When treating minor wounds at home, keep these three important steps in mind:

1. Clean the wound by running it under cool water to remove debris. Do not use soap, hydrogen peroxide, or iodine, as they can cause more harm.

2. Cover the wound with a sterile bandage and keep the wound covered to promote healing. Change bandages daily and monitor for signs of infection.

3. For those with diabetes, a minor infection can worsen quickly. Contact your doctor to treat even the mildest infection immediately.

Dr. John Harness, podiatrist at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital in St. Charles, says diabetics should examine their feet every day and get a foot exam by your doctor at least four times a year.

"Some patients don't feel things well in their feet and we like to say what you don't feel will hurt you so those patients might step on a rock or a toothpick in their shoe and develop an ulceration and not even know it," he said.

If you suspect you have a problem wound, visit an advanced wound center such as the one at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital in St. Charles where treatment can begin as soon as possible.

"Some treatment might be just antibiotic ointment offloading other treatments might be hyperbaric," he said. "A patient who was lacking the ability to provide have oxygen to provide enough oxygen to the wound themselves would be a good candidate for a hyperbaric and what it does put them in an oxygen rich environment to provide oxygen to promote healing."

Remember to speak with your doctor about any problems you are having, practice daily self-care and ask a family member for help if needed. By receiving the best possible care, you can continue to enjoy what you care about most and lead a full, happy life.

Learn more about living with diabetes here.

The SSM Health Medical Minute airs every Thursday at 7 PM on KPLR News 11 and at 9 PM on KTVI Fox 2 News.