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November is American Diabetes Month and the health care experts at Penn Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine, are drawing attention to the fact that every hour seven people across the country lose a foot or leg to the disease, which is the leading cause of lower-limb amputations not caused by accidents.

"Diabetic patients are confronted with multiple challenges in the healing process. Not only is their circulation diminished, but they also have an impaired ability to sense the earliest stages of foot injury due to disease-associated nerve damage," said, Dr. Salimi Wirjosemito, Medical Director at Penn Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine.

According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly one in three people with diabetes ages 40 and older have at least one area on their feet that lacks feeling. Those at greater risk for nerve damage include diabetics who have difficulty controlling their blood sugar, high cholesterol, weight or blood pressure.

Statistically, one in 20 diabetics will develop a wound on the legs or feet each year. The risk of amputations can be reduced by 45 to 85 percent through foot care programs that can include risk assessment, education, treatment of foot problems and referrals to advanced wound centers.

State-of-the-art equipment and leading edge therapies are also playing a role in reducing the risk of amputation. Penn Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine offers hyperbaric oxygen therapy, negative pressure wound therapy, bio-engineered skin substitutes, biological and biosynthetic dressings and growth factor therapies.

The experts at Penn Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine note the following as indications of problems diabetics may have with their legs and urge people to discuss symptoms they may have with their Primary Health providers:

  • Pain in the legs or cramping in the buttocks, thighs or calves during physical activity;
  • Tingling, burning or painful feet;
  • Loss of sense of touch or the ability to feel heat or cold in the feet;
  • Changes in the shape, color or temperature of the feet;
  • Hair loss on the toes, feet and lower legs;
  • Dry or cracked skin on the feet;
  • Thick and yellow toenails or fungus infections between the toes; and
  • Blisters, sores, infected corns and ingrown toenails.

Physicians at Penn Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine recommend people with diabetes manually inspect their feet each day and seek immediate attention if a lower extremity wound has increased pain, redness or swelling, foul wound odor, or a change in color or change in amount of drainage.

For more information on the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers, contact Penn Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine at (610) 738-2590.

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