Diabetic foot

Diabetic foot is an umbrella term for foot problems in patients with diabetes mellitus. Due to arterial abnormalities and diabetic neuropathy, as well as a tendency to delayed wound healing, infection or gangrene of the foot is relatively common. Ten to Fifteen per cent of diabetic patients develop foot ulcers at some point in their lives and foot related problems are responsible for up to 50% of diabetes related hospital admissions.


Prevention is by frequent chiropody review, good foot hygiene, diabetic socks and shoes, and avoiding injury.

  • Foot-care education combined with increased surveillance can reduce the incidence of serious foot lesions .
  • Footwear.

All major reviews recommend special footwear for patients with a prior ulcer or with foot deformities. One review added neuropathy as an indication for special footwear. The comparison of custom shoes versus well-chosen and well-fitted athletic shoes is not clear.

A meta-analysis by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded that "there is very limited evidence of the effectiveness of therapeutic shoes" . The date of the literature search for this review is not clear. Clinical Evidence reviewed the topic and concluded "Individuals with significant foot deformities should be considered for referral and assessment for customised shoes that can accommodate the altered foot anatomy. In the absence of significant deformities, high quality well fitting non-prescription footwear seems to be a reasonable option" . National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has reviewed the topic and concluded that for patients at "high risk of foot ulcers (neuropathy or absent pulses plus deformity or skin changes or previous ulcer" that "specialist footwear and insoles" should be provided

The one randomized controlled trial that showed benefit of custom foot wear was in patients with a prior foot ulceration . In this trial, the number needed to treat was 4 patients.


Foot ulcers in diabetes require multidisciplinary assessment, usually by diabetes specialists and surgeons. Treatment consists of appropriate bandages, antibiotics (against staphylococcus, streptococcus and anaerobe strains), debridement and arterial revascularisation.

It is often 500 mg to 1000 mg of flucloxacillin, 1 g of amoxicillin and also metronidazole to tackle the putrid smelling bacteria.

Specialists are investigating the role of nitric oxide in diabetic wound healing. Nitric oxide is a powerful vasodilator, which helps to bring nutrients to the oxygen deficient wound beds. Specialists are using forms of light therapy such as LLLT to treat diabetic ulcers.

In 2004, The Cochrane review panel concluded that for people with diabetic foot ulcers, hyperbaric oxygen therapy reduced the risk of amputation and may improve the healing at 1 year. They also suggest that the availability of hyperbaric facilities and economic evaluations should be interpreted.


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