VA Doctor Discusses Veterans Dealing with Diabetes

November 9, 2017

More than 80% of Non-Traumatic Amputations in VA patients are Caused by DFUs

Jonathan Brantley, DPM, Chief of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery, McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center

(Richmond, VA, Thursday, November 9, 2017) – If you are one of the 30 million Americans living with diabetes, you may be at risk of developing a serious, non-healing diabetic foot ulcer (DFU). While many DFUs can be managed with proper care, sometimes these wounds can worsen, leading to infection and even amputation

In fact, diabetic foot ulcers are a leading cause of amputation in the United States. Many people might not know that diabetic foot ulcers are a leading cause of amputation among veterans. In fact, more than 80% of non-traumatic amputations in VA patients are caused by DFUs. Of the more than 5 million patients in the VA system, more than 1 million have diabetes. 150,000 of those patients will develop a DFU.

As we recognize Veterans Day in November, it’s important for our veterans and their loved ones to understand the risk, learn how to prevent DFUs, know when to seek treatment for a DFU, and understand the advanced treatment options available to them through the VA health system. And, with November being Diabetes Awareness Month, it’s important for anyone who has diabetes – or loves someone who does – to learn about diabetic foot ulcers, how to prevent an ulcer from occurring in the first place, and what kinds of treatment options are available.

A diabetic foot ulcer is an open sore or wound that occurs in approximately 10 percent of people with diabetes. Poor circulation, high blood sugar, nerve damage, and irritated or wounded feet are the most common causes of DFUs. Anyone who has diabetes can develop a DFU, but some people are more at risk. Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics and older men are more likely to develop DFUs. People who use insulin to control their diabetes, or who have diabetes-related kidney, eye, or heart disease, are also at higher risk.

If you have diabetes, or vascular disease, you should establish a routine of checking your feet daily for cuts, bruises, cracks, blisters, redness, ulcers, or any other sign of abnormality. Another way to reduce your risk of developing a DFU is to see a podiatrist on a regular basis. If you suspect a foot ulcer has formed, you should make an appointment with your doctor immediately. Many foot ulcers will heal with early and effective treatment from a trained specialist.  Delayed treatment can increase the risk of infection and amputation, so it is important that you seek medical attention right away if you develop a DFU.

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