Prevention : Outlook

Age: The older you are, the more likely you are to have serious problems with your feet and legs. In addition to diabetes, circulatory problems and nerve damage are more common in the elderly diabetic. The elderly may also be more prone to sustaining minor trauma to the feet from difficulties with walking and stumbling over obstacles they cannot see.

Duration of diabetes: The longer you have had diabetes, the more likely you have developed one or more major risk factors for diabetic lower extremity problems.

Seriousness of infection: Infections that involve gangrene almost universally go on to amputation and also carry a high risk of death. Ulcers larger than about 1 inch across have a much higher risk of progressing on to amputation, even with proper treatment. Infections involving deep tissues and bone carry a much higher risk of amputation.

Quality of circulation: If blood flow is poor in your legs as a result of damage to the blood vessels from smoking or diabetes or both, it is much more difficult to heal wounds. The likelihood of more serious infection and amputation is greater.

Compliance with the treatment plan: How well you follow and participate in the treatment plan you develop with your doctors and nurses is crucial to the best recovery possible. Ask questions if you don’t understand an aspect of your care or treatment plan. Let the doctor know if something in the plan doesn’t seem to be working.

Wound care centers: A wound care center is an excellent resource if available. It brings together many specialists and approaches to aid in the treatment of the diabetic foot problem. These centers will often be able to offer the most up-to-date therapies and even may have experimental protocols available for people who have not responded to traditional therapy.

Individual physician and nurse skills: Ask about your doctor or nurse’s expertise in dealing with diabetic lower extremity problems. Knowledge about and experience with these problems may lead to earlier diagnosis and more appropriate therapy.