Are you aware that uncontrolled diabetes can cause multiple complications? Delayed wound healing is one among the lot. Know how diabetes can impact wound healing.
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?
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.
Don’t Have Time To Read?
- Diabetes is a condition where your blood sugar levels are higher than normal.
- Long-standing diabetes can affect the natural healing process of your body. It affects your immune system, nerve function, and blood circulation, causing delayed wound healing.
- Diabetic wounds commonly occur in the extremities and are mostly found on the feet in the form of diabetic ulcers.
- A diabetic foot ulcer is the most common diabetic wound and mostly develops under the big toe.
- By practicing proper diabetic wound care, you can protect the wound from infection and help speed up the healing process.
- Diabetic shoes and hyperbaric wound care are the treatment options for diabetic wounds.
- Leaving diabetic wounds untreated can lead to complications such as osteomyelitis and gangrene formation.
- Diabetic wounds can be prevented by regular monitoring of the feet, keeping your feet clean, and wearing well-fitting footwear.
- Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading diabetologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate blood sugar monitoring and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Diabetes Management program which provides 360º care. Let’s treat diabetes together.
Friendly Asked Questions
Uncontrolled diabetes can weaken your immune system, damage your peripheral nerves, and causes poor circulation. Due to this, the blood moves slowly, making the delivery of nutrients to the wound difficult. This leads to a delay in wound healing.
You can clean a diabetic wound with saline or clean water. Then apply an antibiotic cream over the wound and cover it with a dressing. Make sure you change the bandage every 1 to 2 days.
A diabetic wound can take about 3 to 4 weeks to heal completely.
High blood sugar can weaken your immune system, damage your peripheral nerves and affect your blood circulation. This can make you prone to developing infections.
Hydrogen peroxide should not be used for diabetic wounds as it can delay healing and promote infection. You can clean the wounds with plain water or saline.