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Illustration showing diabetic foot also known as a diabetic ulcer

Why Scrapes and Cuts Become Diabetic Ulcers: The Process

Not fully understanding of diabetes complications and the importance of preventative diabetic foot care can be detrimental. Diabetic ulcers (sometimes called “diabetic foot”) often occur after the onset of diabetic neuropathy, which severely restricts sensation in the legs. Around 40-50% of diabetes patients develop neuropathy; people with type 1 diabetes may develop it years after their diagnosis, while those with type 2 can sometimes already have neuropathy in the pre-diabetes stage. 

Today, we’ll explore how minor cuts and scrapes, combined with neuropathy, can lead to ulcers and progressively severe issues. But with solid diabetes awareness and preventative measures, serious complications can be easily avoided!

How Cuts and Scrapes Turn Into Diabetic Ulcers

Here are the five stages between a tiny wound and a full blown diabetic ulcer:

Stage 1: Initial Injury

A minor injury such as a cut or scrape occurs on the skin — anything from a small burn to stepping on a piece of glass. Foot conditions that open the skin’s barrier can also cause tiny wounds, like blisters, cracked heels, calluses and ingrown toenails. For individuals without diabetes, these usually heal without complications.

Stage 2: Diabetic Neuropathy Impairs Healing

Neuropathy halts the wound healing process. First, high blood sugar levels harm blood vessels and restrict the oxygen-rich blood flow our injuries need for repair. Neuropathy also causes a loss of sensation, meaning you may not even be aware of the cut or scrape. 

Stage 3: Infection

The wound may become red, swollen, and warm, indicating infection. Pus or an unusual discharge might be present.

Stage 4: Chronic Wound

The cut or scrape evolves into a chronic wound, characterized by persistent inflammation and failure to heal after several weeks.

Stage 5: Diabetic Ulcer

An ulcer forms as an open red or pink sore that looks “punched out.” It may penetrate deeper layers of skin, extending to muscle or bone in severe cases. Tissue death (necrosis) can also occur, leading to blackened areas around the ulcer. Ulcers can lead to extensive tissue death (gangrene) and bone infections when ignored. 

illustration depicting the stages of diabetic ulcer growth

 What You Can Do to Prevent Diabetic Ulcers

Ulcers sound scary, but the good news is that being vigilant about your foot health can help keep your feet ulcer-free. Examine your feet at home every day, keep them clean, and wear protective orthopedic slippers while inside to protect your skin. Lastly, you should regularly visit your chiropodist for inspections and diabetic foot care if you have diabetes; ask them how frequently you should be coming in!

Prevent Diabetes Complications at Feet First Clinic!

Our Toronto foot clinic has the expertise and services for top-notch ulcer prevention care! If you think your cuts and scrapes can turn into a problem, don’t hesitate to reach out! Call us at (416) 769-3338 or book an appointment here!

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Carolina Charles

Patient Relation Coordinator (She/Her)

If you’ve been to the clinic before, chances are you had the pleasure of meeting Carolina! Carolina’s daily goal is going above and beyond to make sure patients are always completely satisfied. Having worked in the podiatry industry for 22 years, Carolina brings a wealth of knowledge pertaining to client service, insurance policies, and procedures.​ She steers the ship to make sure everything runs smoothly on the daily. Carolina is known for spicing up every outfit with her signature costume jewellery.