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Diabetic foot ulcers linked to early death

Among diabetics, foot care is very important to prevent the development of foot ulcers as they have been linked to a higher risk of death.

Diabetic foot ulcers linked to early death

Among diabetics, foot care is very important to prevent the development of foot ulcers as they have been linked to a higher risk of death.

Over time, uncontrolled diabetes can damage the blood vessels and nerves. Poor circulation and nerve damage in the feet makes people vulnerable to sustaining cuts or other injuries that may go unnoticed and progress into poorly healing ulcers, or sores. Severe cases can ultimately lead to complications requiring amputation.

Researchers studied 65,126 Norwegian adults – of which 1,339 were diabetic having no history of foot ulcers, while 155 had a history of the complication. Compared with other diabetic adults, those with a history of foot ulcers were 47 percent more likely to die during the 10 years of the study period. The risk was more than two-fold higher when foot ulcer patients were compared with non-diabetic adults. People with a history of foot ulcers tended to be older, had poor blood sugar control and higher rates of heart disease and stroke, depression and kidney dysfunction. But these factors only partly explained the higher death risk attributed to foot ulcers. When the researchers factored in age, overall health, depression, education and lifestyle habits, the higher death risk in the foot-ulcer group persisted.

The study revealed that a history of foot ulcer is a significant marker of higher risk of death not only for people in hospital settings but also in the community. In general, experts recommend that people with diabetes take a number of measures to prevent foot ulcers - with good blood sugar control being key to cutting the risk, as well as the risk of other diabetes complications. Other recommendations include getting a complete foot exam at least once per year; regularly doing a self-check to spot any cuts, blisters or other abnormalities in the skin or toenails; and wearing socks and shoes at all times to cut the risk of foot injuries.

This study underscores the importance of routine doctor visits - both to monitor a diabetic patient's overall health, including heart disease risk factors and mental well-being, and for patients to learn how to prevent foot ulcers.
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