Get a leg up on foot ulcers

Of all the potential consequences and side effects of diabetes, one of the most common is also the most overlooked. I’m talking about foot ulcers. And a new study in the journal Diabetes shows just how prevalent they are among people who have blood sugar problems.

What exactly are foot ulcers?

They’re nasty wounds that develop on the bottoms of your feet. And it doesn’t take much to cause them. A simple cut, blister, or other injury can quickly turn into an ulcer.

And they’re more likely in people whose blood sugar is out of whack. Because when you have diabetes, your blood flow is reduced. So even the smallest injuries–ones you may not even feel if you’ve also got neuropathy–take longer to heal. And the longer they take to heal, the more likely it is that they’ll get worse before they get better.

This new study involved 104 diabetic patients. At the beginning of the study, researchers tested blood samples for markers of inflammation. They also conducted tests to measure blood flow.

Nearly 1/3 of the patients–29 percent–developed foot ulcers during the 18-month study period. Researchers found that those patients had more severe neuropathy, higher white blood cell count, narrower blood vessels, and less blood flow through the body.

And among the patients who developed foot ulcers, 47 percent had ulcers that wouldn’t heal completely.

This is serious business. Because there’s only one treatment for foot ulcers that don’t heal–amputation.

But there’s a simple way to help avoid this problem altogether. Improve your circulation, and you improve your body’s ability to heal.

“Mechanisms Involved in the Development and Healing of Diabetic Foot Ulceration,” Diabetes 2012; June 12 (epub ahead of print)