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What You Need to Know About Diabetic Wounds

What You Need to Know About Diabetic Wounds

When someone tells you that their wound doesn’t seem to be healing as expected, one thing might immediately come to mind: diabetes. After all, having a slowly-healing sore is one of the signs of diabetes mellitus1, a condition characterized by increased levels of glucose in the blood. Here’s what you need to know about a diabetic wound.

How Does Diabetes Affect Wound Healing?

There are a couple of reasons why diabetes negatively affects the wound healing process.

Poor Circulation

First, diabetes, particularly when left untreated, often results in poor circulation.

The increased sugar doesn’t just thicken the blood (which already causes poor blood flow). It can also trigger the development of fatty deposits in the blood vessels. This narrows the vessels and prevents the blood from flowing smoothly.

Now, remember that for wounds to heal, the injured area must receive oxygen and nutrients from the blood. Poor circulation contributes to the poor or slow healing process.

Immune System Dysfunction and Susceptibility to Infections

Did you know that a diabetic wound occurs partly due to problems in the immune system? Reports say hyperglycemia is thought to cause immune system dysfunction, which does not only impair wound healing2 but also increases the risk of infections3.

And when infections occur, the healing time and the possibility of complications increase.

Neuropathy

Finally, one of the possible reasons why there’s a delay in treating a diabetic wound is neuropathy, a condition marked by reduced sensation.

Because of neuropathy, a patient may not know that an injury has already occurred and he or she might fail to treat it right away, unintentionally making it worse.

Characteristics of a Diabetic Wound

A person who’s already diagnosed with diabetes may be more vigilant of their skin. Their doctor must have already told them that they should check their skin daily to look for injuries, even one as minor as a superficial cut.

But what if you’re not diabetic and had no idea about spotting a diabetic wound? Below are some of the signs and symptoms of diabetic wounds4:

  • Chronic pain
  • Reduced sensation or having no pain at all (as the case with neuropathy)
  • Redness and inflammation
  • Drainage
  • Bad odor coming from the injury
  • Dead tissues around the wound
  • Fever and chills

Generally, an injury that’s not healing the way it’s expected to is something to be concerned about. If you have any of the signs and symptoms above, please get in touch with your doctor immediately.

Tips on How to Care for a Diabetic Wound

The doctor provides specific instructions on how to care for your diabetic wound. But generally, treatment involves:

  • Proper wound cleaning and dressing
  • Antibiotic therapy
  • Wound debridement or the removal of dead tissues, if they are present
  • Referral to a podiatrist (if it’s a diabetic foot)

If the wound develops a severe infection, the doctor might also recommend amputation.

How to Prevent a Diabetic Wound

Prevention is still better than cure. To prevent the development of diabetic wounds, the following measures might help:

  • Make it a point to reach your target blood sugar levels, through a healthy diet, exercise, and medications.
  • Inspect the skin, especially the feet, for any wound.
  • Keep the skin clean and dry.
  • Avoid walking barefoot and wear well-fitting shoes. Don’t forget to wear well-fitting socks, too.
  • Attend your regular check-ups.

And finally, the minute you see an injury, consult your doctor.

Key Takeaways

A diabetic wound heals slowly, doesn’t heal properly, or doesn’t heal at all. Contributing factors include poor circulation, dysfunctional immune system, increased infection risk, and neuropathy. As a diabetic wound can progress to the point of needing amputation, prompt treatment and prevention are crucial.

Learn more about Diabetes Complications here.

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

1. Diabetes Symptoms, https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/symptoms.html, Accessed November 24, 2021

2. Poor immune response impairs diabetic wound healing, https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/poor-immune-response-impairs-diabetic-wound-healing., Accessed November 24, 2021

3. Type 2 Diabetes and its Impact on the Immune System, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31657690/, Accessed November 24, 2021

4. Diabetes and Wound Care, https://www.mainehealth.org/Services/Endocrinology-Diabetes/Diabetes-Wound-Care, Accessed November 24, 2021

5. 3 reasons diabetic wounds are slow to heal, https://www.geisinger.org/health-and-wellness/wellness-articles/2017/11/08/20/05/3-reasons-diabetic-wounds-are-slow-to-heal, Accessed November 24, 2021

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated a week ago
Fact Checked by Kristel Lagorza