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Diabetic Ulcers Medication

  • Author: Vincent Lopez Rowe, MD; Chief Editor: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP  more...
Updated: Jul 08, 2016

Medication Summary

Many medications may have a role in the treatment of diabetes, the complications of diabetes, and the etiologies of diabetic ulcer. For example, hemorheologic agents and antiplatelet agents are sometimes used in the management of underlying atherosclerotic disease.


Hemorrheologic Agents

Class Summary

Hemorheologic agents such as pentoxifylline (Trental) improve intermittent claudication in approximately 60% of patients after 3 months. Cilostazol (Pletal) is an alternative hemorheologic agent for patients who cannot tolerate pentoxifylline.[53] Cilostazol is contraindicated in patients with congestive heart failure. However, there is no conclusive evidence of any direct beneficial effect of either pentoxifylline or cilostazol on the healing of diabetic foot ulcers.

Pentoxifylline (Trental)


Pentoxifylline is indicated to treat intermittent claudication. It may alter rheology of red blood cells, which in turn reduces blood viscosity. Two to eight weeks of therapy may be required before symptomatic improvement occurs, and only about 60% of patients respond to this drug.

Cilostazol (Pletal)


Cilostazol is indicated to reduce symptoms of intermittent claudication, as indicated by an increased walking distance. It affects vascular beds and cardiovascular function and produces nonhomogeneous dilation of vascular beds, with greater dilation in femoral beds than in vertebral, carotid, or superior mesenteric arteries. Renal arteries were not found to be responsive to its effects. The mechanism of cilostazol involves inhibition of PDE, especially PDE III, and reversible inhibition of platelet aggregation. Patients may respond as early as 2-4 weeks after initiation of therapy, but treatment for as many as 12 weeks may be needed before a beneficial effect is experienced.


Antiplatelet agents

Class Summary

Antiplatelet therapy with aspirin or clopidogrel (Plavix) may be warranted in some cases for the prevention of the complications of atherosclerosis, although neither has a direct benefit in healing diabetic foot ulcers. Antiplatelet agents inhibit platelet function by blocking cyclooxygenase and subsequent platelet aggregation.

Clopidogrel (Plavix)


Clopidogrel selectively inhibits ADP binding to platelet receptor and subsequent ADP-mediated activation of glycoprotein GPIIb/IIIa complex, thereby inhibiting platelet aggregation. It is indicated as antiplatelet therapy in some patients with atherosclerotic disease.

Aspirin (Bayer, Anacin, Empirin)


Aspirin inhibits prostaglandin synthesis, preventing formation of platelet-aggregating thromboxane A2. It may be used in low dose to inhibit platelet aggregation and to improve complications of venous stases and thrombosis. The recommended dose varies with indication, and, often, the literature is unclear on the optimal dosing.


Wound Healing Agents

Class Summary

Topically applied platelet-derived growth factors (PDGF) such as becaplermin gel (Regranex) have a modestly beneficial effect in promoting wound healing.

Becaplermin (Regranex)


Becaplermin gel 0.01% (Regranex), a recombinant human PDGF that is produced through genetic engineering, is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to promote healing of diabetic foot ulcers.[25] Regranex is meant for a healthy, granulating wound, not one with a necrotic wound base, and it is contraindicated with known skin cancers at the site of application.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Vincent Lopez Rowe, MD Professor of Surgery, Program Director, Vascular Surgery Residency, Department of Surgery, Division of Vascular Surgery, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California

Vincent Lopez Rowe, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Surgeons, American Heart Association, Society for Vascular Surgery, Vascular and Endovascular Surgery Society, Society for Clinical Vascular Surgery, Pacific Coast Surgical Association, Western Vascular Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP Professor of Endocrinology, Director of Training Program, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Strelitz Diabetes and Endocrine Disorders Institute, Department of Internal Medicine, Eastern Virginia Medical School

Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP is a member of the following medical societies: American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American College of Physicians, American Diabetes Association, Endocrine Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Jeffrey Lawrence Kaufman, MD Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, Division of Vascular Surgery, Tufts University School of Medicine

Jeffrey Lawrence Kaufman, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Surgeons, American Society for Artificial Internal Organs, Association for Academic Surgery, Association for Surgical Education, Massachusetts Medical Society, Phi Beta Kappa, and Society for Vascular Surgery

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Medscape Salary Employment

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Diabetic ulcer of the medial aspect of left first toe before and after appropriate wound care.
Diabetic ulcer of left fourth toe associated with mild cellulitis.
Charcot deformity with mal perforans ulcer of plantar midfoot.
Table. Characteristics and Uses of Wound Dressing Materials
Category Examples Description Applications
Alginate AlgiSite







This seaweed extract contains guluronic and mannuronic acids that provide tensile strength and calcium and sodium alginates, which confer an absorptive capacity. Some of these can leave fibers in the wound if they are not thoroughly irrigated. These are secured with secondary coverage. These are highly absorbent and useful for wounds having copious exudate. Alginate rope is particularly useful to pack exudative wound cavities or sinus tracts.
Hydrofiber Aquacel



An absorptive textile fiber pad, also available as a ribbon for packing of deep wounds. This material is covered with a secondary dressing. The hydrofiber combines with wound exudate to produce a hydrophilic gel. Aquacel-Ag contains 1.2% ionic silver that has strong antimicrobial properties against many organisms, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus. These are absorbent dressings used for exudative wounds.
Debriding agents Hypergel (hypertonic saline gel)

Santyl (collagenase)

Accuzyme (papain urea)

Various products provide some degree of chemical or enzymatic debridement. These are useful for necrotic wounds as an adjunct to surgical debridement.
Foam LYOfoam



Polyurethane foam has some absorptive capacity. These are useful for cleaning granulating wounds having minimal exudate.
Hydrocolloid Aquacel



Duoderm CGF Extra Thin



These are made of microgranular suspension of natural or synthetic polymers, such as gelatin or pectin, in an adhesive matrix. The granules change from a semihydrated state to a gel as the wound exudate is absorbed. They are useful for dry necrotic wounds, wounds having minimal exudate, and clean granulating wounds.
Hydrogel Aquasorb


IntraSite Gel




Purilon Gel

(KY jelly)

These are water-based or glycerin-based semipermeable hydrophilic polymers; cooling properties may decrease wound pain. These gels can lose or absorb water depending upon the state of hydration of the wound. They are secured with secondary covering. These are useful for dry, sloughy, necrotic wounds (eschar).
Low-adherence dressing Mepore



These are various materials designed to remove easily without damaging underlying skin. These are useful for acute minor wounds, such as skin tears, or as a final dressing for chronic wounds that have nearly healed.
Transparent film OpSite





These are highly conformable acrylic adhesive film having no absorptive capacity and little hydrating ability, and they may be vapor permeable or perforated. These are useful for clean dry wounds having minimal exudate, and they also are used to secure an underlying absorptive material. They are used for protection of high-friction areas and areas that are difficult to bandage such as heels (also used to secure IV catheters).
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