A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

How can you prevent a diabetic foot ulcer?

A diabetic foot ulcer, which is an open sore or wound on the bottom of your foot, is one of the most common complications for someone with uncontrolled diabetes. Foot ulcers are common because high blood sugar can cause problems with your nerves and blood vessels, causing loss of feeling or numbness in your feet.

Additionally, diabetes can cause the skin on your feet to become very dry, leading to peeling and cracking of the skin.

Diabetic foot ulcer treatment

An image of a person's two feet who is concerned about a diabetic foot ulcer

A diabetic foot ulcer, which is an open sore or wound on the bottom of your foot, is one of the most common complications for someone with uncontrolled diabetes.

Podiatry is a good first line treatment option for ulcers, said Dr. Brian Rougeux, podiatrist with Marshfield Clinic Health System. After a thorough evaluation, Rougeux said a podiatrist can treat themselves or refer you to other specialists to help expedite healing of the ulcer.

“After determining the cause of the ulceration, an ulcer can be better treated not only to heal but to help prevent ulcers in the future,” he said.

Some podiatrists will manage foot ulcers by helping to clean the wound, providing local wound care, such as removal of damaged tissue, providing offloading to the area, along with recommendations on dressing change type and frequency.

Talk to your doctor about what treatment recommendations are best for your condition, and when you can return to normal activity.

Don’t wait to treat foot ulcers

According to the National Library of Medicine, diabetic foot ulcers are responsible for more admissions than any other diabetic complication. Studies show that about 5% of patients with diabetes develop foot ulcers and 1% end up with an amputation.

“In patients who are diabetic, ulcerations can be more difficult to heal, and the more time waiting makes the issue harder to treat,” Rougeux said. “A lot of patients who I treat who have gone on to unfortunately require amputations was due to either ulcerations not being seen for a period of time, or thinking they were going to get better on their own.”

When you first notice a wound or ulcer, contact your primary care provider or podiatrist. Rougeux recommends cleaning the area well with soap and water, then dressing the ulcer with antibiotic ointment and a bandage.

“Make sure you are dressing any ulceration with some type of protective covering unless instructed by provider to leave open to air,” he said.

Most importantly if you notice increased drainage, redness, pain, fevers, contact your provider immediately because those are signs of a more serious infection. You may need immediate medical attention if your feet or legs become numb, you notice black or dead tissue in or around your ulcer, and your sore is not better or getting worse.

Preventing diabetic foot ulcers

Ultimately, you want to prevent foot ulcers before you need medical treatment. The best way to prevent diabetic foot ulcers is to be proactive with your foot health, said Dr. Rougeux.

A few tips for foot hygiene include:

  • Wash your feet each day with soap and warm water. Dry them carefully.
    • Do not soak your feet, as soaking can cause dry skin.
  • Check for any signs of sores or wounds. You can do this with a mirror or ask someone else to look at them. It is important to check the bottom of your feet and toes, so you can catch any changes.
  • Put on lotion or moisturizer. Avoid lotion in the areas between your toes, as the extra moisture can cause infection.
  • Trim your nails straight across to avoid harming the skin.
  • Protect your feet by wearing shoes and socks that fit properly.
    • Ask about special shoes that may be covered by insurance with a prescription. 

Beyond foot health, maintain your blood sugar levels is just as important.

Talk to your provider about your normal blood sugar levels and set a personal blood sugar goals. Research studies have found moderate weight loss, healthy eating, exercise and tweaks to your lifestyle can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes among high-risk adults.

Marshfield Clinic Health System offers a Diabetes Self-Management Education Program  at a number of locations as a valuable resource in diabetes management. You also can seek a dietitian to help create a healthy diet that works for you.

Here are some at-home care tips for a diabetic foot ulcer

at-home care for diabetic foot ulcers


For help with diabetic foot ulcers, talk to a Marshfield Clinic Health System provider.

Message your provider Schedule appointment

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