Diabetic Foot Ulcers


A major cause of foot ulcer, diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder characterized by chronic hyperglycemia due to absolute or relative insulin deficiency. Many complications are associated with diabetes mellitus; these are broadly divided into acute and chronic complications. The chronic complications are further divided into microvascular and macrovascular complications. Most of the complications of diabetic mellitus are due to poor glycemic control.

Diabetic foot ulcer can be neuropathic (due to loss of sensation and subsequent susceptibility to injury) or ischemic (due to narrowing/occlusion of the arteries that supply the extremities) or a combination of both. If not properly managed, it can lead to deformity or amputation of the digit(s) or the foot. Management mainly involves good glycemic (blood sugar) control, wound debridement, regular dressing, antibiotics, hyperbaric oxygen, and analgesics.

A meta-analysis was conducted and published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Six trials were included in the analysis. Chinese herbal medicine combined with standard therapy was found to significantly increase the number of healed diabetic foot ulcers as compared to using standard therapy alone. Those ulcers that did not heal have at least a 30% reduction in the ulcer area.

In addition, the two therapies (standard and Chinese herbal medicine) combined significantly decreased the number of patients without any improvement. The adverse effects of the CHM were minimal and transient and of no significant impact on the patient quality of life. Only few minor adverse events were reported: nausea, epigastric pain, and dry mouth.

Thus, adding CHM to standard therapy of diabetic foot will significantly increase the chance of healing, prevent disability and amputation.


Min Chen, Hui Zheng, Li-Ping Yin, and Chun-Guang Xie. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. August 2010, 16(8): 889-898. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0470. Link

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