James M. Salander, MD, FACS
Vascular Surgery and Varicose Vein Treatment

5513 Connecticut Ave. Suite 210
Washington, DC 20015
Phone: 202-966-1228
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Diabetic Foot Infections

Foot problems in people with diabetes are common. Simple issues such as scrapes, crooked toes, bunions, and deformed nails can become complicated and result in a break in the skin and an open wound. Loss of feeling in the feet, called neuropathy, and poor circulation in arteries or veins can add to the development of infections. In diabetic patients, open wounds can easily become infected. These problems are the result of the long-term effects of diabetes and compromise of the circulation.

The role of the vascular surgeon is to assess circulation and try to improve blood flow and thereby help heal the infection.

How can you prevent diabetic foot infections?

  • Use skin lotion to prevent dryness, avoiding the area between the toes, and covering the rest of the foot and ankle
  • Control your blood sugar
  • Wear proper fitting shoes
  • Wear protective footwear
  • Look after personal hygiene
  • Avoid going barefoot
  • Avoid heaters, heating pads, and hot water bottles
  • Avoid prolonged soaks
  • Be very careful trimming toe nails
  • Do not shave calluses
  • Walk regularly for exercise
  • Recognize the potential problems of peripheral artery disease (PAD)
  • Do not smoke
  • Control your blood pressure
  • Lose weight if you are overweight
  • Contact your doctor at the first sign of problems - do not delay!
  • Have regular check-ups

What are the causes of diabetic foot infections?

  • Local pressure
  • Breaks in the skin
  • Deformities of the feet
  • Neuropathy (lack of adequate sensation)
  • Infection of the skin can deepen to become an ulcer
  • Poor circulation affecting the arteries or veins of the leg (learn more in English | Spanish)
  • Poor circulation affecting the capillary (tiny) vessels feeding the cells of the foot

What are the symptoms and findings of diabetic foot infections?

  • Open sore
  • Pain
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Draining, smelly wound
  • Elevated blood sugars

What tests may be ordered?

  • Culture of the open wound
  • Plain x-rays
  • Ultrasound
  • Bone scan
  • MRI
  • Angiogram
  • Arteriogram

What treatments are available?

  • Antibiotics
  • Wound care
  • Pain management as necessary
  • Removal of dead, damaged skin or infected tissue (debridement)
  • Measures to improve circulation
  • Measures to protect the skin of the feet
  • Special shoes
  • Tight control of blood sugars by patients and their medical doctors
  • Patient Education (learn more in English | Spanish) or click here for more information