November is Diabetes Awareness Month. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) estimates nearly 30 million Americans or more than 9 percent of the population has diabetes. According to the ADA, diabetes remains the 7th leading cause of death in the United States.
While diabetes is manageable with proper diet and medical treatment, diabetics are prone to complications — especially in their feet. ORA Orthopedics’ podiatric surgeon, Russell Carlson, DPM, specializes in diabetic foot care.
“Patients with diabetes typically have additional conditions, such as poor circulation and peripheral neuropathy, putting them at greater risk of suffering slow-healing foot wounds,” he explains.
“Diabetes often causes nerve damage and sensation loss, so a diabetic may injure their foot and not realize it. However, the problem with even small irritations or blistering,” says Dr. Carlson, “is that without immediate attention, they can become open wounds.”
“Wounds that don’t heal properly in a timely fashion are at risk for infection that can threaten surrounding tissue, the underlying bones, and in some cases of a severe infection, may require amputation, if it cannot be controlled with local wound care and antibiotics.”
ORA partners with the Genesis Wound and Hyperbaric Institute in Davenport, IA and Moline, IL to care for patients with diabetic foot complications. Traditional therapies have included wound debridements to remove unhealthy tissue, as well as devices like special shoes and insoles or walking boots to relieve the pressure on diabetic wounds.
However, newer treatments are providing more options.
“Therapies such as skin-substitute grafting and hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be very effective in treating these non-healing wounds,” Dr. Carlson explains. “We use skin-substitute grafts from human tissue membranes that help recruit the patient’s own cells to heal the wound. I am a big proponent of skin-substitute grafting. It is a great tool to get these wounds to heal more quickly.”
Another option involves hyperbaric oxygen therapy that helps carry oxygen to the wound site. The air pressure in the hyperbaric chambers is about two and a half times greater than the normal pressure in the atmosphere. This helps a patient’s blood carry more oxygen to organs and tissues to help heal wounds.
Dr. Carlson and his ORA colleague, Dr. Beau Shay, specialize in foot surgery and treatment of the diabetic foot. Both physicians recommend regular diabetic foot exams. ORA will provide a routine diabetic foot exam, especially if the patient has a history of foot ulceration or partial foot amputation.
“We make sure to perform an in-depth, comprehensive foot exam for diabetic patients, as well as educate them on daily self foot examinations, adequate blood sugar control and use of diabetic shoes,” says Dr. Carlson.
Call ORA for a diabetic foot exam at (563) 322-0971.