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Q: What are foot and toe ulcers, and when should I see a doctor about them?

Foot and toe ulcers are wounds on your feet that don’t heal, or keep returning. Around 15% of people with diabetes will get them. If they aren’t treated, these wounds can become infected, and sometimes this means the foot will need to be amputated.

Some foot ulcers occur because of numbness in the feet. They can form on pressure points, or on a cut or blister that you don’t feel. Other ulcers form because poor blood circulation causes tissues in your feet to weaken and die. Poor circulation also is one reason why these wounds have trouble healing.

If you have diabetes, you should check your feet and toes regularly, and see your healthcare provider right away if you find a sore. With treatment, these wounds can take weeks or months to heal.

Ulcers can be treated with regular wound care, antibiotics and other medications, and elevating the foot. Your doctor might have you wear compression wraps or orthotics, or use crutches or a brace to relieve pressure on the wound. In some cases, surgery might be recommended.

You can take care of foot and toe ulcers at home by keeping the area clean and dry, changing bandages regularly, and taking medications as they’re prescribed. Drinking plenty of fluids and eating a healthy diet can also help support wound healing.

If you have diabetes, you can reduce your risk of foot ulcers by wearing appropriate shoes and socks, and never going barefoot. Check your legs, feet, and toes daily for blisters, cuts, sores, calluses, and hot spots. Care for your toenails by keeping them trimmed and filed. And have regular check-ups with your podiatrist to keep feet healthy.

For non-healing wounds, Maui Memorial Medical Center’s Wound Care and Hyperbaric Therapy Clinic provides traditional and advanced therapies and techniques that are proven to reduce healing time and improve healing rates. Patients do not need a doctor referral. For more information call 808-986-4500 or visit

Barron D. Elleby, DPM


Island Foot and Ankle Specialists
415 Dairy Road, Suite D
Kahului, HI 96732