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Diabetes and Wound Care

Patients with diabetes are at risk of complications, including slow wound healing. Talk to your doctor if you have signs or symptoms of diabetic wounds. Wounds need to be treated as soon as possible to avoid serious health problems.

What are diabetic wounds?

Diabetes affects the way the body processes glucose. Abnormally high blood glucose levels are associated with serious complications, including diabetic wounds. Diabetic wounds can be caused by:

  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • Weakened immune system
  • Narrow arteries

Diabetic wound signs and symptoms

People with diabetic wounds may have the following signs or symptoms:

  • Chronic pain or no pain at all
  • Inflammation and redness
  • Pus drainage (weeping wound)
  • Bad odor coming from the wound
  • Dead tissue around the wound
  • Numbness and dullness
  • Fever and/or chills

Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing signs and/or symptoms associated with diabetic wounds.

Diabetes wound complications

Wounds need to be treated as soon as possible to avoid serious health problems. Some complications include:

  • Foot injury

  • Infections

  • Ulcers

  • Damage to nerves and bone

  • Poor blood flow

Wounds that become serious may cause so much damage to tissue and bone that amputation is necessary. It is important to care for a wound immediately before amputation becomes the only option.

Research shows that ulcers often appear as the wound becomes very serious, requiring a lower limb amputation. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing problems with your diabetic wounds not healing.

Diabetic wound treatment

The best treatment is prevention, since medical treatment for diabetic wounds provides limited help. To prevent diabetic wounds you should:

  • Keep your diabetes well controlled with diet, exercise, and medications
  • Inspect the skin every day to look for developing wounds (or have a family member do it)
  • Wear well fitting shoes that do not cause “pressure points”; do not wear shoes or socks that are too tight
  • Avoid walking barefoot
  • Keep nails carefully trimmed
  • Keep the skin clean and dry
  • Regularly see a podiatrist or have your primary doctor do a regular foot exam
  •  Get early medical care for any injuries that do not seem to be healing as they should

If a wound occurs, treatment can include:

  • Keeping all wounds clean and properly dressed

  • Antibiotics

  • Surgical debridement (removal) of dead or infected tissue

  • Referral to a podiatrist or a wound care center

  • Surgery for limb amputation when there is a serious infection

Taking Care of Your Feet

Learn the basics of taking steps to care for your feet when you have diabetes.

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