If you are living with diabetes, taking proper care of your feet is very important. Diabetics may experience numbness in their extremities and may not be aware of injuries. “These injuries can develop into chronic wounds with severe consequences, including possible amputation,” says Endocrinologist Tarcisio Diaz, MD. Here, he shares important information about managing your diabetes and proper wound care.
Q: How does diabetes interfere with wound healing?
Diabetes hinders the generation of new cells. High blood sugars can put you at increased risk for infection. Diabetes can also cause decreased blood circulation in the feet and legs, which can lead to ulcers and slow healing. Another effect of diabetes is an impaired nervous system, which can result in wounds becoming severe before they are noticed.
Q: What do I do if a wound isn’t healing?
All wounds should be kept clean and bandaged. Taking pressure off the wound is also important. The less walking on the wound, the quicker it can heal. If a wound hasn’t healed in three weeks, it’s considered chronic. At that point, you should consult with your doctor, who can coordinate further care, investigate the barriers to healing and organize an advanced approach.
Q: Is there anything I can do to speed up the healing process?
Proper nutrition is a big factor in managing your diabetes and in healing wounds. Follow the ADA diet guidelines and limit the amount of sugar and starchy carbohydrates in your diet. Make sure to incorporate protein in all your meals; such as meat, dairy products and nuts. All new tissue is made from protein, and wounds can heal quicker when enough protein is consumed.
Q: What treatments are available for complex or hard-to-heal wounds?
In certain problem wounds, hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be considered as a treatment. Patients are placed in a chamber at an increased atmospheric pressure filled with pure oxygen. This dramatically increases the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is known to decrease inflammation, kill bacteria, help antibiotics work better, release new cells and growth factors to repair tissue, and speed healing.