Contemporary data on diabetic foot ulcer prevalence are scarce. Most studies were conducted in the 1990s, reporting incidence rates of 1.9–2.6%. Since then the prevalence of diabetes has doubled and the organisation of diabetes care has undergone major changes. Up-to-date data that quantify the occurrence of diabetic foot ulcers are required and could serve as baseline measures for future studies.
Individuals with diabetes (n = 81,793) were identified from the NIVEL (Netherlands institute for health services research) Primary Care Database, which contains data for standardised routine care and is representative of the Dutch population. The annual incidence rates of ulcers and other foot abnormalities were calculated using data collected between 2010 and 2013. To account for inaccuracies, incidence rates were calculated using: (1) only individuals with a documented foot examination; (2) all individuals; and (3) individuals with explicit documentation of present/absent foot ulceration.
There were 412 individuals with documented ulceration during the registration period (0.50%). The annual incidence rate of foot ulcers was 0.34% (range 0.22–1.08%). Of those individuals with a documented foot examination, 14.6% had absent pedal pulsations, 17.3% had neuropathy and 10.1% had callus/pressure marks.
The annual incidence rate of foot ulcers in the current study was lower than previously reported. This observation could reflect the efficacy of screening practices and an increased awareness among professionals and patients. Nevertheless, approximately one in every five diabetic individuals had at least one identifiable risk factor on foot examination. This signifies the importance of preventive screening.