doctor examining foot with ulcer

Foot ulcers can be unpleasant, unsightly, and incredibly painful.

A foot ulcer is an open sore, usually on the sole of your foot. It can be caused by something inside your foot or by an external wound. If you step on something sharp, for instance, the injury could turn into an ulcer if you don't get proper treatment.

Diabetic Foot Ulcer Care Is Urgent Care

If you ever find yourself developing a foot ulcer or wound, it’s important to get it treated quickly. Ulcers can develop into very serious problems if you ignore them. Left untreated, ulcers can:

  • Become abscessed and form a gaping hole in your foot
  • Develop massive pockets of pus
  • Transform into progressive, aggressive cellulitis
  • Infect your bone or bone tissue 
  • Turn into a very dangerous condition called gangrene. If an ulcer develops gangrene, the tissue dies due to a lack of blood flow to the area. The infected tissue darkens, can blister, cause severe pain and numbness, and send out a foul-smelling odor. Advanced gangrene often requires amputation. About 14% to 24% of all people who have a diabetic foot ulcer need an amputation. Many of those cases are due to gangrene.

If you have an ulcer, don’t delay treatment. Even if it seems like something you can manage at home, it could develop into something much worse.

Your Risk for Diabetic Foot Ulcers

Now that you know how dangerous foot ulcers can be, it’s important to be aware of the risks. Here are the top risk factors for foot ulcers.

  • Diabetes
  • Diabetic peripheral neuropathy or loss of sensation or numbness in your feet.\
  • Diabetes plus fungal toenails - diabetic patients with fungal toenail triple their risk for developing a foot ulcer.
  • Blood circulation problems such as Peripheral Artery Disease
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Foot deformities such as bunions and hammertoes
  • Kidney disease
  • History of foot ulcers in your family
  • History of ulceration, or even a prior amputation
  • Smoking and alcohol use

The Different Kinds of Foot Ulcers

When you, a family member, or a friend gets an ulcer, you’ll first want to consider the reason. You can think about foot ulcers as generally falling into one of several categories:

  • Diabetic foot ulcers, which may occur if you have diabetes or a diabetes-related complication. Diabetic foot ulcers can show up anywhere, but you’re most likely to find them around your big toes or heels
  • Pressure ulcers can develop for several different reasons, but a likely cause is tight shoes that restrict your circulation. If that’s the case, you’ll probably find sores at the back of your feet, especially around the heel.
  • Arterial ulcers, caused by poor arterial circulation
  • Venous stasis ulcers, if you have a damaged vein or veins

You can see that developing an ulcer isn’t good news. Even if it isn’t big or particularly painful, it can indicate you’re suffering from a more serious condition, like diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Diabetes is—far and away—the most common cause of foot ulcers in the United States. No matter what may have caused it, a foot ulcer should always raise alarm bells. You must keep new sores under control before they develop into a problematic ulcer. 

Preventing Diabetic Foot Ulcers at Home

If you have diabetes or another health complication, checking on the health of your feet should be part of your daily routine. Experts suggest you:

  • Inspect your feet regularly. Simple injuries, like blisters and abrasions, can usually be treated at home. However, if you notice your feet feeling numb or swelling, visit a podiatrist.
  • Think about your footwear. Are your shoes too big or too small? Restrictive footwear can cause a lot more problems than you’d expect for adults and children alike. Consider reading my blog, “16 Hacks to Solve Painful Shoe Problems in Women”. While it was written for women a lot of the information applies to men as well.
  • Take advantage of the Medicare Diabetic Shoe Program. When you have a CDFE, you'll find out if you qualify. 
  • Create a health plan. If you have diabetes, how do you manage it? If you’re overweight, how are you keeping your body strong? Just like diabetes can be a direct cause of ulceration, obesity can also contribute to the formation of ulcers and other foot-related problems.

Remember: your body works to heal itself, but your lifestyle and routines can help or hinder it. Tobacco abuse, for instance, inhibits blood circulation and thereby inhibits your body’s natural healing process.

What We Do At Our North Seattle Office To Prevent Diabetic Foot Ulcers

We conduct a Comprehensive Diabetes Foot Exam with our patients. With highly visual testing our patients are more motivated to follow through on the recommendations listed above. 

If you do develop an ulcer, you should see your podiatrist as soon as possible. Podiatrists have a variety of ways to treat foot ulcers. Most frequently, we:

  • Prescribe antibiotics, if and when they’re needed.
  • Dress and wrap the wound, to prevent further infection or growth
  • Treat early and later stage wounds with biologics
  • Work with your schedule and circumstances to develop a holistic healing plan
  • In some worst-case scenarios, you may need surgery. A podiatrist may cut away dangerously infected tissue or be forced to amputate part of your foot.

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Need Relief from A Foot Ulcer in Seattle, Washington? Request an Appointment Now

Don't wait if you have a foot ulcer. It's important to get it treated right away. Complete the contact form on this page or call our office, the Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City, at 206-368-7000 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Rion Berg.

Most new patients are seen within 1-2 week's time. During your initial visit, Dr. Berg will spend up to 30 minutes getting to know you, your podiatry complaints, and your goals so that he can recommend the treatment best meets your needs. Don’t wait—contact us today.

North Seattle Foot & Ankle Specialist Dr. Rion Berg offers compassionate podiatry care for all foot and ankle problems to those living in Seattle Washington and the surrounding areas. Call us today at 206-368-7000 for an immediate appointment or request an appointment online.

Podiatrists can not only help you treat an existing ulcer, but they can also help you prevent them from ever occurring. If you think you’re at risk of developing foot ulcers or need immediate attention, contact us right away.

Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.