About 25% of everyone with diagnosed diabetes will experience a foot ulcer in their lifetime. Foot ulcers range from annoying to debilitating, and in worst-case scenarios, they will require amputation. Diabetes-related complications are a leading cause of amputations in the United States, and the vast majority of amputations on diabetics (about 80%) were necessary because of foot ulcers. These are concerning statistics, and there are efforts around the world to find treatments that make foot ulcers less likely to lead to limb loss.
There are ways to treat and prevent foot ulcers, but if ulcers aren’t treated properly then infection can spread, gangrene can set in, and a person may have to face the pain of saying goodbye to one of their limbs.
The root of the problem (not surprisingly) lies with high blood sugar and all the complications it causes. One of the most common complications is neuropathy, or diabetic nerve damage, which most often affects the feet and lower legs. Small injuries are more likely to become ulcerated and infected because someone with neuropathy may not be able to feel that they have an injury.
Another contributor is poor circulation. High blood sugar contributes to the narrowing and hardening of blood vessels, and this makes it difficult for necessary oxygen and nutrients to reach extremities, like the feet. These complications leave people with diabetes at higher risk for infection, ulceration, tissue death, and amputation. Prevention (see tips here) is the best medicine, but a new device may help restore ulcerated feet and prevent amputation.
Mitsubishi Chemical Cleansui Corporation has introduced a new footbath that uses water mixed with carbon dioxide to heal diabetic ulcers as well as other injuries.
How does it work? Carbon dioxide is a vasodilator, which means it helps open up blood vessels. The device uses warm water and “nano bubbles” to get carbon dioxide deep into the tissues. The bubbles are small enough to permeate the skin and relax constricted blood vessels. This allows those blood vessels to get more oxygen, nutrients, and white blood cells to the injury to promote healing.
A study on 22 diabetic patients with foot ulcers that hadn’t responded to other treatments found that after 15 days of using the footbath for 30 minutes a day, the carbon-dioxide treated patients showed “obvious improvement” over the control group. Encouraging, but the study, published in 2015, also noted that more testing was needed.
But carbon dioxide therapy (often called carboxy therapy) is nothing new. It was practiced as early as 1930 in France for wound healing, and is used all over the world, in various forms, as a cosmetic treatment.
The bad news is that our research could not find this therapy available in the United States except at high-end spas as a treatment for stretch marks, loose skin, dark circles, wrinkles, and even localized cellulite. The footbath designed specifically for diabetic ulcers and similar injuries was introduced in Dubai in January of 2018. It’s unclear, at least at this time, where else we might be able to see the device in the future. A warm, fizzy footbath sounds like a refreshingly pleasant treatment for what is a decidedly difficult diabetes complication. Stay healthy, friends!
Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.