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Diabetic Ulcer: Signs and Symptoms, Prevention, Treatment

Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, MD · General Practitioner · Maxicare Primary Care Center

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Dec 09, 2021

Diabetic Ulcer: Signs and Symptoms, Prevention, Treatment

Diabetes can cause a number of serious complications in a person. One of these is a diabetic ulcer. Read on to learn more about what a diabetic ulcer is, what its symptoms are, how to treat it, and how it can be prevented.

What Is a Diabetic Ulcer?

A diabetic ulcer is an open wound or a sore that’s caused by complications of diabetes. They’re typically found at the bottom of the feet, but they can also develop in other areas of the body.

These ulcers can be caused by a number of things. But it’s usually a combination of poor circulation, nerve damage, dry skin, and irritation of the feet.

These ulcers usually start out as small wounds or blisters in the feet. Due to poor circulation, these wounds heal very slowly, or not at all. Ulcers also usually go unnoticed because of a lack of feeling in the foot caused by nerve damage.

Over time, these ulcers can grow bigger and can become infected. If left untreated, it can cause a serious infection and might even warrant amputation of the foot. Diabetic ulcers are also the number one cause of amputation among diabetics.

It is estimated that about 60% of diabetics will develop nerve damage later on. This means that they have an increased risk of ulcers, so it’s important to know the signs to watch out for. This can help prevent it from getting worse and causing infections.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

There are a number of signs and symptoms of a diabetic ulcer to watch out for, such as the following:

  • Fluid draining in shoes or socks
  • Numbness in the feet
  • Swelling of a wound in the feet
  • Redness in the toes or feet
  • In more advanced cases, it can cause fever or chills

Aside from the signs and symptoms, here are some risk factors that can increase a person’s risk of diabetic ulcers:

  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Having neuropathy or nerve damage
  • Poor circulation
  • Old age
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Smoking

People who have a high risk of diabetic ulcers should be mindful of any wounds or sores that develop on their skin. It’s also important to keep their diabetes under control in order to avoid serious complications.

How Is a Diabetic Ulcer Treated?

In order to treat a diabetic ulcer, treatment needs to be systemic. What this means is that aside from treating the ulcer itself, diabetes also needs to be managed to prevent further problems.

Here are some common forms of treatment for diabetic ulcers:

Cleaning and Debridement

First, it is important to keep the diabetic ulcer clean and free from any dirt. While ulcers can be cleaned at home, some might require medical assistance, especially for more serious ulcers.

What doctors usually do is disinfect and clean the wounds, and then remove any dead skin and tissue. This is important because dead skin and tissue can lead to infections.

Afterwards, the wounds will be dressed in order to keep it clean, and maintain a moist environment that will help with healing.

Medication to Prevent Infection

Medication can also help keep infections caused by a diabetic ulcer under control. However, it is important to not self-medicate, as this can cause more problems.

Only take medication if the doctor prescribes it, and be sure to follow their instructions.

Keeping Blood Sugar Levels Under Control

Lastly, it is important for patients with a diabetic ulcer to keep their blood sugar levels under control. This is because if their blood sugar levels are high, then it will take longer for the ulcers to heal.

Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels also helps prevent further ulcers from happening, as well as possible complications from diabetes.

How Can It Be Prevented?

Here are some ways to prevent diabetic ulcers:

  • Eat healthy foods, and avoid eating fatty, processed, salty, and sweet foods
  • Exercise daily, for at least 30 minutes each day
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Monitor your blood sugar levels
  • Be sure to take your diabetes maintenance medication on time
  • Check your feet for any wounds, scratches, or injuries that might lead to a diabetic ulcer

By following these tips, you can lower your risk of diabetic ulcers.

Learn more about Diabetes Complications here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Elfred Landas, MD

General Practitioner · Maxicare Primary Care Center

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Dec 09, 2021

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