Diabetes Complications: Understanding the Link Between Foot Ulcers and Osteomyelitis

Aug 01, 2023
Diabetes Complications: Understanding the Link Between Foot Ulcers and Osteomyelitis
Diabetes can often lead to foot conditions such as foot ulcers. We discuss how foot ulcers can lead to osteomyelitis and how you can prevent them here.

Diabetes is a condition that affects 11% of people living in the United States. Diabetes can often lead to other health complications like neuropathy, mental health issues, and increased risk for heart disease. Those living with diabetes are also at high risk for foot problems and infections as a result. 

Because diabetes-related foot conditions affect about 15% of those living with diabetes, Serge Lartchenko, MD, and the rest of our team of infectious disease specialists at Texas Infectious Disease Institute located in Richardson, Texas, want you to understand how they’re connected and what you can do to prevent them.

Understanding foot ulcers and osteomyelitis 

Foot ulcers are open wounds in the skin of your feet that have high risk of infection. When you have long-term high blood sugar like you do when you have diabetes, it causes nerve damage – or neuropathy – and can result in you losing feeling in your feet. As a result, you may not notice a small cut on your foot that can develop into an ulcer.

Osteomyelitis occurs when bacteria enters through an open wound, circulates in your blood, and then settles into your bone and infects it. This can cause your bone marrow to swell and can eventually cut off blood supply to the bone, causing the bone to die.

One of the most common entrances for bacteria that causes osteomyelitis is through a foot ulcer. 

Prevention of foot ulcers and osteomyelitis

Even though osteomyelitis can develop in numerous ways, if you start by preventing foot ulcers, it decreases your risk of osteomyelitis significantly. 

You can reduce your risk of developing foot ulcers by managing your diabetes through exercise, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight. You also want to examine your feet every night for cuts, blisters, sores, cracks, and scratches or really anything that might lead to a foot ulcer. Make sure to always wear socks and appropriate shoes and never walk around barefoot to keep your feet protected. 

Seeking treatment for foot ulcers and osteomyelitis

If you have a foot ulcer, we typically recommend contacting your primary care physician first unless you notice drainage or have a fever, which would be a sign of a possible infection or osteomyelitis.

If you do end up with an infected foot ulcer or even osteomyelitis, it’s important to see our team right away for prompt and proper treatment to avoid risks of serious complications like foot amputations. 

To set up an appointment for diabetes-related foot infections, contact our team by giving us a call at 469-960-4413 or by using our online scheduler today.