Diabetic Wound Care
Diabetes is an extremely serious disease that elevates your risk for medical complications and emergencies. It is also a very “quiet” disease that hides in the background, just waiting to cause problems. And all it takes to start the proverbial snowball rolling down the hill is an unnoticed and unaddressed problem — even a tiny one.
As this snowball gains momentum, it becomes much harder to stop and will eventually reach a point where it runs you over and leaves you absolutely crushed under its weight.
The last thing we want is for you to end up in a situation where a diabetic wound — which can become a dangerous diabetic foot ulcer over time — puts you in a critical situation.
Fortunately, understanding why ulcers develop, how they affect your health, and what you can do to prevent them will go a long way toward keeping you safe.
If you have diabetes and need a foot care plan, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Dr. Leibovitz can work with you to create one that makes sense for you and lowers your risk for serious issues like diabetic wounds. Contact us today for more information.
What are diabetic wounds?
Diabetes is marked by high glucose (sugar) levels in the blood stream, and every part of your body relies on blood for health and vitality.
Since it is so far-reaching, the disease compromises all your organs and body systems, including damaging your nerves, decreasing vascular supply, and neutralizing the effectiveness of your immune system’s white blood cells.
We want to bring attention to this because it is the groundwork for dangerous situations.
Let’s begin by highlighting a couple of systemic concerns:
- Diabetic neuropathy takes away your ability to be aware of cuts, scrapes, and other similar issues.
- A decrease in blood flow and weakened white blood cells prevent your body from healing and fighting off potential infections at normal levels.
- Elevated blood sugar levels have a negative effect on collagen production — which is essential for both providing strength to skin and allowing wounds to heal. (For this reason, pressure points are a common cause of diabetic foot ulcers.)
- Diminished nutritional status can also keep tissues from being able to heal.
Taking all of that into consideration, any kind of wound — meaning cuts, scrapes, blisters, ingrown toenails, and anything else out of the ordinary — can continue to exist and worsen over time.
This can lead to a larger breakdown of the skin, called an ulcer (not the stomach variety).
If your nerves function as intended and you have normal sensation, you are able to feel those kinds of problems. When you have pain, you’re probably going to protect the area, or try to resolve the issue and prevent bigger problems from developing.
If diabetic neuropathy takes away your ability to recognize problems when they develop, such issues can easily go untreated — and this is a highly concerning situation.
A key concern with untreated wounds is that they allow an open door for bacteria to enter your body. This happens because, as noted, your body simply doesn’t have the resources necessary for healing the wounds.
There is a honeymoon period of 2-4 weeks for optimal healing, then the skin wound will become dormant (making it harder to heal and requiring greater resources such as advanced wound care products).
To put it another way, the body has essentially given up at this point.
How can you prevent problems from diabetic wounds?
Diabetic foot ulcers are the most challenging wounds to treat because of these complications.
Constant wound management is essential for any chance to save the limb — and possibly even your life.
We view diabetic wounds the same way you might view cancer. Actually, we probably view them even more seriously:
Clearly, prevention is preferred when it comes to these wounds, and this starts with early detection.
If you’re able to catch a problem at the earliest possible stage, it gives you the best chance to avoid a major medical emergency. Although there might not be sensation (due to neuropathy), it doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.
Since neuropathy can take away your ability to feel problems, we have to substitute one sense for another by using your eyes. Visually inspecting your feet twice daily can potentially catch early issues and address them before the snowball is halfway down the hill.
Now, you have a choice. You can certainly choose not to check your feet every day, but that means you may end up without any feet to check.
If you are being responsible and inspecting your feet on a daily basis, you want to be on the lookout for any redness, swelling, drainage, heat, or changes in the skin. These are all signs of infection. (Infections can be bad enough for otherwise healthy individuals, but an infection is downright dangerous when diabetes is in the picture.)
Can diabetic wounds be treated?
Depending on the stage of your diabetic wound, a number of treatment options may be available.
- Diabetic shoes may help by offloading pressure from specific regions of the feet.
- Diabetic inserts can also be used to do the same thing. These are similar to (but different from) the biomechanical orthotics we prescribe. In this case, the inserts are accommodative and offer greater protection for deformities and pressure areas.
- Collagen supplementation: A topical collagen supplement may be used to help strengthen skin and protect a wound from worsening. Collagen supplements have been used in the cosmetic industry for decades, so they have an established track record of being safe.
- Advanced wound care: Due to diabetes, your body doesn’t provide enough blood to heal wounds. This can be attributed to the reduced blood supply caused by the disease. There can be some hope on this front, though. Endovascular surgeons may be able to open up blood vessels to improve circulation. These medical specialists save limbs, which saves lives!
- Biological dressings: If your own health, or the concern of loved ones, isn’t enough motivation for you to care for diabetic issues, perhaps you want to consider the cost. When early treatment is not administered, we often have to use biological options, which are quite expensive. For example, an amniotic-based graft will set you back $3,000 every two weeks.
Along with early detection, early treatment is key!
High blood sugar levels may not make you feel sick, but they can do some really bad things to your body over time.
You simply must manage your diabetes to keep your feet safe and attached, and to potentially save your life. The importance of diabetic foot care cannot be overstated, so come see us. We can help you create a plan centered on prevention and catching problems early.
For more information, call us today at (317) 545-0505 and request an appointment. We will be glad to help!