By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
Taking the proper precautions for foot wound care can be the difference between saving your essential limbs or amputation surgery.
There are 130,000 hospitalizations a year for amputations in those with diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, up to 11.8% of those with diabetes have a wound.
“Your feet affect your quality of life,” said Lorraine A. Ladd-Falanga, registered nurse at the Center for Wound Healing as part of Oswego Health in Oswego. “If a condition causes someone to have their toe amputated that affects the kind of activities they can perform.”
Ladd-Falanga sees patients at the center which offers leading-edge treatments, including hyperbaric oxygen therapy, negative pressure therapies, bioengineered tissues along with methods to reintroduce the body’s innate ability to heal. She offers five essential pieces of information about wound care.
1.Diabetes and the foot
Diabetes has a direct correlation to the foot. Patients with diabetes can be at risk for diabetic foot ulcers, infections and complications from those infections. Diabetic foot ulcers or wounds put patients at a higher risk of hospitalization and need for surgery or amputation.
Diabetes comes in two forms; Type 1 which typically affects people 21 and younger who lack insulin and, the most common, Type 2, which can develop at any age and affects the body’s ability to absorb insulin. Taking steps to prevent Type 2 diabetes, can help lower your risk for other health problems directly linked to diabetes, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and vision loss.
“If a diabetic doesn’t monitor their symptoms it can lead to infections and problems in the foot that require immediate intervention such as amputation,” said Ladd-Falanga.
If redness spreads out from an injury site, if there is swelling, if green or yellow fluid is emerging from the wound or if the area around the wound is warm or tender, you may have an infection. Other signs of infection include body aches, chills, fever or swollen lymph nodes. If you have any of these symptoms, promptly seek medical attention.
“A lot of patients just feel like it will resolve itself on its own so they don’t seek immediate help,” said Ladd-Falanga. “If you are not proactive, there could be serious harm to your feet.”
Your feet can serve as an impactful litmus test for your overall health. Dry skin can be an indication of thyroid conditions, foot numbness can be a sign of early diabetic issues and black spots could be the first signs of melanoma. Even sore feet may be an indication of heart disease.
TCC-EZ is a lightweight, one-piece, roll on, woven total contact cast that offers an easy way to provide the gold standard of care for the management of diabetic foot ulcers. The contact cast system is used to treat patients suffering from diabetic foot ulcers, Charcot neuroarthropathy or postoperative surgical foot wounds.
“When you have any wound, especially if you are a diabetic, you want to avoid putting pressure and contact on that wound. That can be both for pain management as well as infections,” said Ladd-Falanga. “It can impede the healing of the wound and that is why the cast is so essential. It also allows you to walk without the use of crutches and we have had some incredible results.”
4.See a specialist
If you suffer from sores or wounds that have not significantly improved from conventional treatments, experts believe specialized treatments can help you heal.
The center offers treatments, including debridement, dressing selection, special shoes and patient education. Care includes infectious disease management, physical therapy, occupational therapy, laboratory evaluation, nutritional management, pain management, diabetes education and other areas to address total patient health.
“Some patients may not have a primary care physician to refer them to a specialist so that is another reason for inaction,” said Ladd-Falanga. “We encourage people to get a primary care physician so there are no delays in getting to the proper care they need.”
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves exposing the body to 100% oxygen at a pressure that is greater than normal. Wounds need oxygen to heal properly. Exposing a wound to 100% oxygen may speed healing. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is commonly used for diabetic wounds of the lower extremities, delayed effects of radiation injuries, such as osteoradionecrosis and soft-tissue radionecrosis and preparation and preservation of compromised skin grafts.
“By applying 100% oxygen to the wound, it can significantly increase healing. It is an incredible treatment if you suffer from wounds that have not healed through other conventional treatments,” she added.