Diabetic Foot Ulcers Lower Quality of Life

Patients with diabetic foot ulcers experience a high level of depression and a lower quality of life according to a study presented at the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society’s (AOFAS) annual summer meeting here today.

Diabetic foot ulcers (DFU) are sores on the feet that often occur in people with diabetes. The abnormally high levels of blood sugar in these people damage blood vessels, causing them to thicken and leak. Over time, this makes the vessels less able to supply the body, especially the skin, with the blood it needs to remain healthy. The resulting poor circulation leads to ulcers, especially those located in the feet. These ulcers are slow to heal and often become deep and infected.

Diabetic Foot Ulcers look like red sores and can be seen during visual examination of the feet. To reduce the cause of infection, feet must be kept very clean. Unfortunately, this is hard to do and ulcers can become so deep and infected that the foot needs to be surgically amputated. Diabetic ulcers are the most common foot injuries leading to lower extremity amputation (LEA).

The study, conducted by Dr. Michael Pinzur, a Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, studied 60 adult diabetic individuals with diabetes. 20 patients had some associated nerve damage and acted as the control group. Another 20 were undergoing treatment for a diabetic foot ulcer, and 20 were being treated for a diabetes-related lower extremity amputation.

To test the effect of ulcers on the patients’ quality of life, Dr. Pinzur used an objective validated social sciences test called SF-36. The test measures learning potential, capabilities for following directions, level of depression, and overall enjoyment of life.

The surgeon found the results startling. Dr. Pinzur found that patients with DFU experience depression and other negative impacts on their quality of life as frequently as people who have had lower extremity amputations. This is probably attributable to the fact that DFU precede 85% of diabetes-related amputations.

The impact of a foot ulcer on diabetic patients every day life is much greater than doctors originally anticipated. For Dr. Pinzur, “the important thing is that heath care providers a aware of this new information and work to come up with methods of treatment that will not impact [patient} lives as much as it does now. Health care providers need to appreciate how severely a diabetic foot ulcer impacts patient lives’.”

Dr. Pinzur recommends that health care providers recognize the severity of the depression felt by patients with DFU. Patients’ functionality, capabilities, and quality of life become very impaired.

The AOFAS is the leading professional organization for orthopaedic surgeons specializing in disorders of the foot and ankle. Orthopaedic surgeons are medical doctors with extensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of the musculoskeletal system that includes bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves.

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