What is a Diabetic Foot Ulcer?

A diabetic foot ulcer is an open sore or wound on the bottom of the foot. An ulcer can develop quickly and be difficult to heal. Infection is a common complication, but not all foot ulcers are infected. Anyone with diabetes can develop a foot ulcer, however people who use insulin are at a higher risk, as are patients with diabetes-related kidney, eye and heart disease. It occurs in approximately 15 percent of patients with diabetes. Of those, another 6 percent will be hospitalized due to infection or another ulcer-related complication. Diabetic ulcers are the leading cause of non-traumatic leg amputations in the US.


The ulcers form due to a combination of factors, however vascular disease can complicate a foot ulcer by reducing the body’s ability to heal and increasing the risk for infection. Elevated blood glucose levels can reduce the body’s ability to fight off an infection, slowing the healing process.

  • Lack of feeling in the foot (neuropathy)
  • Poor circulation (PAD)
  • Foot deformities
  • Irritation such as friction or pressure
  • Trauma
  • Duration of diabetes
  • Ill fitting shoes


If you have an ulcer, see a podiatric physician immediately. Treatment can reduce the risk of infection, reduce the risk of amputation and improve the quality of life. The main goal of treatment is to heal the wound as quickly as possible. The faster the healing process, the less chance there is for infection. However, healing time is dependent on a variety of factors such as wound size and location, pressure from walking or standing, swelling, circulation, blood glucose levels and wound care. Healing can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Learning to check your feet is crucial for preventative care.


  1. The American Podiatric Medical Association