A foot ulcer, or sore, can happen to anyone—sometimes the result of overzealous toenail clipping or poorly fitting shoes. But when sores fail to heal and become infected, they can cause tremendous pain and restrict your ability to get around. In advanced cases, amputation may become necessary to save your life.
Fortunately, serious foot problems can be prevented with proper care, regular examinations and prompt medical attention.
Most at risk for foot problems are people with diabetes, who can develop nerve damage and poor circulation, and people with peripheral arterial disease, a condition in which blocked blood vessels prevent blood and nutrients from reaching the feet. Untreated, these conditions can lead to tissue death and foot or limb loss.
If you have a foot ulcer, see your doctor right away—waiting can reduce your treatment options and jeopardize your health. Doctors can administer antibiotics or drain or surgically remove diseased tissue. Other helpful treatments include angioplasty to restore blood flow, atherectomy to remove plaque and bypass surgery.
You can avoid debilitating foot problems or amputation by:
- inspecting your feet daily for sores, redness, swelling, skin cracks and hair loss
- calling your doctor if your feet are consistently numb or cold to the touch
- stopping smoking
- exercising regularly—walking is great for feet and legs
- avoiding using alcohol-based lotions on your feet and using only enough lotion to prevent dry skin
- avoiding putting lotion between toes
- wearing properly fitting shoes (before putting them on, check inside for pebbles or other irritants)
- eating a diet low in saturated fat, cholesterol and calories and drinking plenty of water
- controlling your glucose levels and practicing good foot hygiene if you have diabetes