Wound healing and Diabetes are unfortunately related in an inverse relation. The more the blood sugar levels in diabetes, the worse is the wound healing.
The slower healing of wounds can highly increase the risk of developing infections and other complications.
Minor cuts, grazes, wounds, scratches, and burns are a normal part of daily life. However, in diabetics, these minor injuries may create serious health issues if they don’t cure on time. Though these minor conditions can occur anywhere on the body, the feet are the most vulnerable place of injury. A minor wound on foot can quickly develop into a foot ulcer.
Foot ulcers can become a very serious condition if left untreated. Unfortunately, a whopping 15 percent of people with diabetes, develop foot ulceration.
This is why it becomes imperative to do regular self-checks and closely monitor any minor cut or wound no matter how small it is. Catching wounds early is the only feasible way to reduce the risk of complications.
Diabetes and Impaired Wound Healing
In diabetes, a number of factors can affect the body’s ability to heal wounds:
High blood sugar levels in Diabetes
When the blood sugar level is higher than normal, it:
- prevents oxygen and nutrients from energizing cells
- prevents the immune system from functioning efficiently
- increases inflammation
All these effects combined together slow down the wound healing process.
Neuropathy and Diabetes
Peripheral neuropathy can occur when the blood sugar levels consistently stay higher than normal. With time, damage can occur to nerves and vessels. The affected area can loose sensation because of nerve damage.
Neuropathy is particularly common in hands and feet. When neuropathy takes over, you may not be able to feel the wounds when they occur. This is the major reason why foot wounds are more common in people with diabetes.
Poor circulation and Diabetes
People with diabetes are twice more prone to develop peripheral vascular disease, a condition of poor circulation. Also, the occurrence of type 2 diabetes in peripheral artery disease patients is around 49.7 percent.
Peripheral vascular disease causes the narrowing of blood vessels, which reduces blood flow to limbs. The condition also affects the ability of red blood cells to pass through vessels easily. And a high blood glucose level increases the thickness of blood, affecting the normal blood flow pattern even more. A slow blood circulation makes it more difficult for the body to deliver nutrients to the wound site. As a result, injuries take longer to heal or may not heal at all.
Immune deficiency in Diabetes
Many people with diabetes also have issues with immune system activation. The number of immune cells sent to heal wounds and their ability to perform well, is often reduced. If the immune system can’t function properly, wound healing is obviously slower and the risk of infection is higher.
High rate of Infection in Diabetes
If the immune system isn’t functioning properly, your body struggles to fight off bacteria that cause infection.
High blood sugar levels directly increase the possibility of infection. This is because the bacteria thrive on the glucose rich blood.
If the infection does not get treated on time, and is left to spread, it can lead to complications like gangrene or sepsis.
Wound care in Diabetes
In diabetics, a minor wound presents a real cause for concern. If not carefully monitored, the wound can quickly progress into an infection or a more serious complication.
The most serious concern in these cases is an amputation. People with diabetes are 15 times more prone to have amputations as an outcome of foot wounds or ulcers.
How to help yourself for wounds in Diabetes?
Daily self-checks. Catching wounds early is the major point to avoid infections and complications. Make it a habit to do daily self-checks and look for any new wounds, especially on feet. This should involve thorough checking of entire foot area focusing in between and under the toes.
Look for wounds or redness, bruising, blisters or even discoloration. Use a magnifying mirror to get a good look in between the toes.
Also regularly check your feet for sensation by using any light object. Also check if you feet can feel warm or cold temperatures.
Wiggle your toes quite frequently everyday and move your ankles frequently to encourage blood flow in your feet.
How can a Diabetic wound heal faster?
Remove dead tissue. Necrosis (dead cells) & excess tissue often occur in case of diabetic wounds. This can promote the growth of bacteria and toxins and increase the probability of wound infection. It can also prevent you from inspecting the underlying skin. Your doctor can help you with the removal process of dead tissue.
Keep dressings fresh. Regularly changing dressings can help reduce bacteria and slow down the infection to increase wound healing. Doctors often recommend special wound care dressings for diabetics.
Keep pressure off the affected area. Pressure may cause wear and tear that damages the skin and leads to an even deeper wound or ulcer.
When to see your Doctor?
See your doctor if you experience any of the following signs:
- Loss of sensation
- Persistent pain
You should also see your doctor if any of your symptoms worsen or last longer than a week.
Any break in skin is a cause for concern, so if you’re unsure about the wound, see your doctor. They can identify the wound and advise on how best to care for it. The faster you get the appropriate treatment, the more likely you are to avoid complications.
Diet and Lifestyle for Wound Healing
There are a few things one can do to boost immunity and aid in wound healing.
Eat a healthy diet. Diet is the major factor that has a direct influence on blood sugar levels, so maintaining proper nutrition is the key. If you can maintain healthy glucose levels, you’re more likely to heal faster should a wound occur.
People with diabetes can often maintain blood sugar control by avoiding processed carbs, added sugars, and fast food. It also helps to increase the intake of fiber, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Good nutrition provides the key nutrients your body needs for faster wound healing, such as vitamin C, zinc & protein.
Stay active. Exercise directly helps improve insulin sensitivity. This makes sugar in the bloodstream enter your cells more efficiently, which promotes healing and health.
Quit smoking. Smoking decreases the ability of cells to carry oxygen. Smoking also disrupts immune system and increases the risk of vascular disease.