What Are Diabetic Ulcers?
Diabetic Ulcers, or Diabetic Foot Ulcers occur for a variety of reasons. They occur in about 15% of people who suffer from diabetes These ulcers are open sores or wounds and are commonly located on the bottom of the foot. 6% of people who suffer from diabetic foot ulcers are hospitalized due to infection or other ulcer-related complications.
According to the American Pediatric Medical Association, “Diabetes is the leading cause of non-traumatic lower extremity amputations in the United States, and approximately 14-24 percent of patients with diabetes who develop a foot ulcer will require an amputation. Foot ulceration precedes 85 percent of diabetes-related amputations.” (apma.org)
These are some pretty high numbers and if there is a way to decrease these statistics, life will be easier for those suffering from diabetes.
Persons suffering from diabetes can develop a foot ulcer. There are a few factors that make diabetes patients more prone to foot ulcers. These are…
- Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, older men
- People who use insulin
- People with diabetes related kidney, eye, and heart diseases.
- People who are overweight
- People who use tobacco and alcohol
Ulcers can form on the foot due to…
- Lack of feeling in the foot
- Poor circulation
- Foot deformities
- Irritation (friction or pressure)
- Duration of diabetes
- Neuropathy (reduced or inability to feel pain in feet due to nerve damage from elevated glucose levels)
- Vascular disease (reduces body’s ability to heal and lowers immune system)
With diabetic foot ulcers, t pain is not a symptom. Most people who develop an ulcer have lost the ability to feel pain, making pain an uncommon symptom. Some common symptoms are…
- Drainage in socks
The main goal in ulcer treatment is to help the ulcer heal as quickly as possible. The faster the wound heals, the less time there is for infection to occur. At this time, most people are using traditional forms of treatment for ulcers.
If an ulcer is infected the traditional form for treatment is to:
- Take pressure off the wound
- Remove dead skin
- Apply medications
- Manage blood glucose and other health problems
If an ulcer has not become infected, the traditional form for treatment is to:
- Keep blood glucose levels stable
- Keep ulcer clean
- Keep ulcer bandaged
- Clean wound daily
- Use ulcer bandage or dressing
- Avoid walking without shoes
Many patients are required to wear special footwear, braces, castings, use wheelchairs, or use crutches. While all of these options discussed above help reduce pressure and irritation on the ulcer and can speed up the healing process, they are far from fun and can make continuing on with your every day life very difficult. Living with diabetes is difficult enough without having to constantly keep an eye on your foot. This is where light therapy is changing the game for ulcer victims.
Light Therapy & Traditional Ulcer Treatments…
Phototherapy, or light therapy, is being proven to speed up the healing process for diabetic foot ulcers. When light therapy is combined with some of the simple forms of treatment for ulcers, such as keeping it clean, a wound can be healed rather quickly. While light therapy has been proven effective at treating ulcers with no other help from traditional forms of treatment, the process will be sped up and more effective when combined with some traditional medical treatment.
How It Works…
Light therapy is a non-invasive form of treatment and it is harm free, making it an incredible option for ulcer treatment. This form of treatment works by exposing affected body parts to daylight or a specific wavelength of light in a device at home or in a doctor’s office.
Red light therapy is the most commonly used form of treatment for wound healing. Red light can heal a wound 200% faster than a natural healing process. Infrared red light therapy works by using a range of wavelengths to penetrate the outer layer of the skin to a depth between 8 to 10 mm, which provides the cells with usable energy. This energy can bring about many different reactions in cells such as:
- Inflammation reduction
- Increased production of collagen
- Increased circulation
- Formation of new capillaries
- Increased lymph system activity
- Increased release of raw cellular energy (ATP)
- Increased cellular clean up (phagocytosis)
- Tissue granulation is stimulated
Red light therapy will not treat ulcers or other wounds immediately. However, if used on a consistent schedule, patients can see results in 24 hours to 2 months depending on the intensity of the ulcer and the treatment regime.
While the list of benefits for red light therapy is nearly endless, the adverse side effects are nonexistent. There have been no reported cases of light therapy harming anyone attempting to treat diabetic foot ulcers. Interestingly enough, there are no reported negative side affects for red light therapy in general!
The promise that light therapy shows in treating wounds such as diabetic foot ulcers is remarkable. If light therapy can stop infection, heal wounds, help us keep all of our limbs, and make diabetics’ lives easier, what can’t it do?!