Diabetes and Wounds: Caring for Sores
When you have diabetes, it’s vital to treat foot injuries right away. Even minor wounds can turn into serious foot ulcers, which can cost you a foot — or an entire leg — if you don’t care for them quickly and thoroughly. These easy steps can prevent problems down the road.
The four things you have to do every day to lower high blood sugar are:
1. Eat healthy food
2. Get regular exercise
3. Take your diabetes medicine
4. Test your blood sugar.
Experts say most people with diabetes should try to keep their blood sugar level as close as possible to the level of someone who does not have diabetes. This may not be possible or right for everyone. Check with your doctor about the right range of blood sugar for you.
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What you put on your feet matters. “You can get a foot ulcer from something as simple as walking in new or tight-fitting shoes or getting a small pebble stuck in the shoe,” says Raul Guzman, MD, a vascular surgeon at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.
If you have diabetes, you may get a kind of nerve damage that stops the feeling in your feet. Doctors call this neuropathy. If you can’t feel your feet, you may not know you’re hurt, and a small cut or sore can turn into something bigger.
Or you might have poor blood flow to your feet, which makes it hard for even minor cuts to heal.
Your doctor can tell you whether you have nerve damage or blood-flow problems. Guzman says he can do a test that shows how blood moves through your body. If the results are normal, you can have standard wound-care treatments. “If the results of this blood-flow test are abnormal, that means you have poor circulation that needs to be repaired,” he says.
Surgery can help. “We can use a balloon and stent,” Guzman says, “or we can do a bypass procedure, where we connect the artery above the blockage to one of the arteries in the calf or foot.”
Wound Treatment Options
If you do injure your foot, don’t try to take care of it at home. Go to a wound-care center or your doctor, even for blisters, calluses, and scratches.
“Put on some antibiotic ointment and see a wound center or your doctor, at the latest, the next day,” says Harold Brem, MD, chief of the wound healing and regenerative medicine division at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, NY. “These are limb- and life-threatening problems, so do not take chances.”