With diabetes, your wounds can take longer to heal and this increases the chances of infections and other complications. Diabetes can interfere with the functioning of your immune system and also increase inflammation. Thus, with diabetes, your wounds tend to heal slowly.
Proper management of your blood sugar is the primary solution to this. Let’s find out how diabetes affects would healing and how to manage diabetic wounds.
- What is Diabetes?
- How Does Diabetes Impact Wound Healing?
- What are the Types of Diabetic Wounds?
- What is a Diabetic Foot Ulcer?
- How to Manage or Take Care of Diabetic Wounds?
- What are the Treatment Options for Diabetic Wounds?
- What Happens if you Leave a Diabetic Wound Untreated?
- How to Prevent Diabetic Wounds?
- Don’t Have Time To Read?
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition that affects your body's ability to produce or use a hormone called insulin, which causes high blood glucose (sugar) levels. Your body digests the food you consume and turns them into glucose (sugar). Insulin, a hormone produced by the beta cells in your pancreas, helps the sugar in your bloodstream to enter your cells where it is converted into energy.
When you have Type 1 Diabetes, your pancreas produces little to no insulin. If you have Type 2 Diabetes, your cells become insulin resistant, i.e. they are unable to utilize the insulin present in your body.
How Does Diabetes Impact Wound Healing?
Long-standing diabetes can affect the natural healing process of your body. A rise in your blood glucose levels can impair the functioning of your white blood cells that are responsible for initiating the healing process and defending your body from infection-causing pathogens. This makes any wound vulnerable to infection.
Diabetes also affects your circulation depriving the wound of red blood cells that supply the wound with the necessary nutrients for healing. Diabetes can cause damage to your peripheral nerves (peripheral neuropathy) which leads to reduced sensation and numbness in the extremities. This prevents you from feeling any pain or discomfort from the wounds and small cuts may go unnoticed.
What are the Types of Diabetic Wounds?
In your daily life, based on the activities that you regularly do, you can develop wounds anywhere. However, with diabetes, you are more vulnerable to cuts, scrapes, and sores. Diabetic wounds commonly occur in the extremities and are mostly found on the feet in the form of diabetic ulcers.
What is a Diabetic Foot Ulcer?
A diabetic foot ulcer is the most common diabetic wound and mostly develops under the big toe. It can be a small cut or scrape that does not heal normally.
With uncontrolled blood sugar, the wound fails to heal, and instead, the skin breaks down further exposing the deeper layers of tissues. This makes the wound prone to infection-causing pathogens. A diabetic foot ulcer may show the following signs:
- Seeping of blood/pus from the wound site
- Swelling, irritation, or redness
- Black tissue around the wound
- Bad odour
Due to nerve damage caused by uncontrolled diabetes you might not feel any pain at the site of the wound. However, if you notice the above signs, make sure to seek immediate medical attention.
How to Manage or Take Care of Diabetic Wounds?
By practicing proper diabetic wound care, you can protect the wound from infection and help speed up the healing process.
- Perform regular self-checks so that you can catch any wounds early. Do not forget to check in between and under your toes as these are common areas for a diabetic wound.
- Clean your wound with saline or normal water.
- Remove any dead cells and excess tissues from the wound as it can promote the growth of bacteria. You can take instructions from your doctor on how to do it.
- Apply an antibiotic cream and cover the wound with a dressing.
- Changing the dressing regularly will help reduce bacteria and maintain appropriate moisture levels.
- You can avoid major potential sources of infection such as public swimming pools. Also, make sure that you do not walk indoors or outdoors barefoot.
What Are The Treatment Options For Diabetic Wounds?
These are compression bandages that are designed to provide a semi-solid mold around the foot and lower leg. It applies gentle pressure and does not restrict movement. The medicated paste inside promotes healing and prevents infection.
Hyperbaric Wound Care
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a safe and natural way to treat diabetic wounds. It uses pressurized oxygen to stimulate your body's innate healing response.
What Happens if you Leave a Diabetic Wound Untreated?
Leaving a diabetic wound untreated can lead to an infection. The infection can spread locally to the muscle and bone leading to a condition called osteomyelitis. It can result in swelling and drainage from the wound site. It can further lead to gangrene formation. It is a cluster of dead tissues that form as a result of lack of blood supply and severe infection.
Gangrene requires emergency intervention as it can lead to serious complications if not treated immediately. To stop the infection from spreading, your doctor may advise amputation of the body part where gangrene has developed.
How to Prevent Diabetic Wounds?
Here are a few ways to prevent diabetic wounds:
- Check your feet daily for cuts, scrapes, or blisters.
- Wash your feet twice a day with warm water and soap. Pat dry with a soft towel and make sure you dry between the toes.
- Use a moisturizer twice daily to prevent dryness.
- Avoid walking barefoot or wearing shoes without socks.
- Make sure that you use footwear that is well-fitting.
- Do not try to remove corns or calluses on your own.
- Keep your blood sugar under control with lifestyle changes and medications.
- Make sure you monitor your sugar levels regularly.
Catching wounds and treating them early is the first thing you can do to prevent minor wounds from becoming more serious. Despite taking measures, if your wounds don't heal, consult your healthcare provider for the next steps.