This article discusses the importance of managing diabetic foot ulcers appropriately and the risks associated with poor management.
Foot ulcers are a patch of broken skin or open wound that commonly occur on the lower leg or bottom of the foot.
People with diabetes are more likely to develop foot ulcers due to vascular complications or peripheral diabetic neuropathy, this causes reduced nerve functioning which means that the nerve signals do not function as normal so the patient is not aware of the damage as the nerves do not communicate the pain sensation to the brain.
It is essential that people who have diabetes keep their blood glucose levels under control to reduce the risk of slow-healing wounds and complications, including foot ulcers. Low glucose levels directly correlate with slower wound healing.
Is it important for diabetic foot ulcers to be treated correctly and timely as serious foot ulcers can become infected which can spread to the surrounding bones and muscles, this is called osteomyelitis. If the infection is left untreated this can ultimately result in amputation.
Independent Recommendations to Improve Healthcare Standards and Patient Safety
I. Early recognition and regular wound assessments- Patients at risk of foot ulcers should have regular wound assessments carried out so that any deterioration can be quickly identified, and the care plan adjusted to the patient’s needs.
II. Record keeping- If a person has a diabetic foot ulcer an assessment should be carried out and it should be recorded the size, depth and position of the ulcer. This allows other clinicians to understand the patients’ clinical circumstances and to identify any deterioration/healing.
III. Referral to appropriate experts- For example Multidisciplinary foot team, Tissue Viability Nurse, Orthopaedics, Vascular Surgeon.
IV. Advice- Patients can be advised to wear pressure relieving footwear, to offload their feet/legs to promote healing. Furthermore, wound dressings should be applied and regularly changed to keep the ulcer clean and dry and aid with the healing process.
In summary, Trusts should ensure that they have an appropriate care pathway to ensure that healthcare professionals understand what to do when a diabetic foot ulcer is identified and that they provide timely care.