Diabetes And Wound Care: What You Need To Know
The best way to prevent neuropathy and boost the immune system is to have well-controlled blood sugar. Keeping blood sugar levels within acceptable ranges is the key to delaying or preventing all the complications of diabetes, but while that sounds like an easy enough solution, the thing about diabetes is that blood sugar levels are hard to control. Sometimes it may seem impossible to keep glucose levels within an acceptable range even with vigilant efforts (tips of controlling A1C here). But there are other ways to help prevent wounds and encourage healing:
- Nutrition. Eating a healthy diet is always important, but a nutritious diet can help the body heal quickly. Diets should contain nutrient-rich sources of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
- Exercise. There is a long laundry list of benefits to exercising (see some of them here), and one of them is that it promotes good circulation. The increased blood flow that comes with regular exercise can reduce the risk of wounds and decrease healing time.
- Perform self-checks. Wounds and sores should immediately be cleaned, treated, and dressed, but that’s not possible if someone is unaware that they have a wound in the first place. It’s recommended that people with diabetes check their bodies daily for cuts and sores that might not be immediately noticeable—especially the feet. Existing wounds should be watched carefully for signs of infection.
- Proper foot care. Feet are at increased risk of cuts and scrapes because they are constantly hitting the ground. Comfortable, properly fitting shoes are key in preventing blisters, as are clean, dry socks that don’t cut off circulation. (Check out these tips for picking out proper socks). It’s also important to use a safe toenail clipper and not clip toenails down so short as to cause an ingrown toenail.
- Stop smoking. Smoking decreases the body’s ability to fight infections.
Despite laudable efforts, some minor injuries are unavoidable. A quick, thorough response can prevent a minor injury from becoming a major concern.
- Keep dressing fresh. Bacteria is more likely to grow in a warm, moist environment, so change dressings as needed to keep wounds dry and protected.
- Keep pressure off. Continuous pressure may exacerbate an existing wound and further slow healing.
When To See A Doctor
Because of the risks of infection and even amputation, people with diabetes should see their doctors about wounds much earlier than non-diabetics. Anything concerning should be brought to the attention of a doctor. Here are some general guidelines:
- Burning or tingling.
- Signs of inflammation such as swelling, redness, and/or heat.
- Signs of infections such as pus, drainage, and/or unpleasant odor.
- Persistent pain, especially if it seems disproportionate to the injury.
- Loss of sensation or function.
- Increasing symptoms or increasing size of wound.
- Fever and/or chills.
When in doubt, it’s best to make a doctor’s appointment. Prevention, vigilance, and strong communication with a medical team are the keys to preventing complications from wounds and to preventing unnecessary amputations. People with diabetes do have extra work in order to maintain optimal health, but with care and effort, they should be able to enjoy long, happy, and healthy lives.