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For Your Patient: What is a DFU?

Information Every Patient Should Know About Diabetic Foot Wounds

The following information is offered by KCI as a general educational resource for your diabetic patients. Let us help you provide your patients with information that will help them better understand their diabetic foot wounds, their disease, how to manage it, and about V.A.C.® Therapy if you choose to prescribe it.

Managing Your Diabetic Foot Ulcer

Getting back on your feet again starts by taking the right steps.

Diabetes is often associated with serious complications, such as blindness, kidney damage and
cardiovascular disease.17

People with diabetes are also at risk for foot injuries. The most serious injury is a foot ulcer.8

What are diabetic foot ulcers?

A diabetic foot ulcer is a sore on the foot that often occurs in people with diabetes. These sores can last for weeks, or even months, and if left untreated, can lead to severe complications, including disfigurement and amputation which can seriously compromise your way of life.

What causes diabetic foot ulcers?

People with diabetes often have numbness in their feet caused by nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy) and low blood flow to their legs and feet as a result of their disease.20 Because of this, it may be very difficult to feel the pain and discomfort associated with an injury on their foot, therefore allowing a foot ulcer to go undetected and untreated for a time. The causes of diabetic foot ulcers may also slow down the healing process and increase chances of getting an infection.8,7

How will I know that I have a diabetic foot ulcer?

If you have some or all of the complications of diabetes that are listed above and injure your foot – by stepping on a sharp object or getting a blister due to ill-fitting shoes – you may be unable to feel the injury and thus be unaware that an ulcer is developing. That is why it is important to wash and inspect your feet every day for injuries such as blisters, cuts and scrapes. Using a mirror to help you see the bottom of your feet can be helpful. Always check between your toes too. By checking your feet regularly you may be able to recognize an injury early on and then seek appropriate medical attention.6

If you have been diagnosed with a diabetic foot ulcer, you should know about all of the treatment options available to you. While the information in this guide is intended to help you better understand your treatment options in the management of diabetic foot ulcers you should always consult with your doctor about which options are best for you.

If I get a diabetic foot ulcer, how will it be treated?

There are many ways to treat a diabetic foot ulcer, including topical treatments, antibiotics and special dressings. One study reports that 31% of (uncomplicated) neuropathic diabetic foot ulcers healed after 20 weeks of (good wound care or saline moistened gauze).14 Similarly, after 12 weeks of good care, 24% of neuropathic ulcers attain complete healing.14 If your wound has difficulty healing, is infected, or is severe, more aggressive treatment may be needed. Among the many advanced therapy choices, your doctor may select an advanced wound therapy device, such as V.A.C. Therapy.

Four randomized controlled trials have shown that the use of V.A.C. Therapy to treat diabetic foot wounds has been associated with improved healing and in two of these studies V.A.C. Therapy patients had fewer amputations.4,2,16,11 The appropriate treatment for each patient depends largely on the cause of the foot ulcer and how serious it is when you go to the doctor.

How does V.A.C. Therapy work?

In essence, V.A.C. Therapy uses controlled negative pressure (a vacuum) to help wounds heal. Unlike gauze bandages that merely cover a wound, V.A.C. Therapy actively works to assist the healing process. V.A.C. Therapy can help your wound close by bringing the edges together and stimulating new tissue cell growth. Additionally, by removing infectious materials and other fluids from your wound, V.A.C. Therapy helps to promote perfusion which can improve blood flow to your wound.

How can I help my wound to heal?

While you should follow all health care provider instructions exactly, here are several ways you can help your wound heal properly:

  • Stay off your feet! Walking on an ulcer can increase damage to the tissue, deepen the ulcer, and potentially result in bone infections and other very serious complications.
  • Manage your diabetes well. Infected ulcers occur much less often in patients with healthy body weight and blood sugar levels.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking constricts your blood vessels, making it much harder for wounds to heal. Not smoking will increase your chances of healing properly.

So what are my next steps?

As always, the best plan is to talk to your doctor first. Discuss all of your treatment options, including V.A.C. Therapy. By following a prescribed treatment plan and taking a few, basic preventative measures, you can start on your road to recovery. Good luck!

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