Patients with diabetes know all too well about the risks of ulcers and the importance of proper foot care. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, nearly half of the 15 percent of diabetic patients with foot ulcers will require hospitalization.
“Among diabetic patients, many amputations begin as foot ulcers or wounds. While it is a very common issue, the proper care and disease management can ensure a better outcome,” says John Pron, DPM, podiatrist at Riddle Hospital, part of Main Line Health.
Whether you have diabetes or are caring for a loved one with the disease, here’s what you can do to help expedite wound healing and prevent complications.
Keep the wound covered and moist
In earlier years, experts thought that ‘airing out’ a wound would help it heal more quickly and more effectively. However, the opposite is true; wounds will heal more quickly if they’re kept moist and covered.
Apply a topical medication to the wound a few times each day, as recommended by your doctor. After each application, wrap the wound with a clean dressing.
Closely monitor blood sugar levels
Patients with diabetes know how important it is to pay close attention to blood glucose levels. This is especially important if you’ve recently suffered a foot wound or ulcer.
“When blood glucose levels are high, it causes the cell walls to stiffen. This can impact blood flow and impair the healing process, causing a wound to heal more slowly,” explains Dr. Pron.
With this in mind, you should be especially diligent about blood sugar and follow your nutrition plan especially closely as you wait for your wound to heal.
Reduce the amount of pressure on your foot
A critical aspect of wound healing is ‘off-loading.’
“Wounds need time to heal and, unfortunately, this often means taking a break from unnecessary activities that require you to be on your feet,” says Dr. Pron. “This means everything from standing at the sink and washing dishes to walking around when you don’t need to.”
As part of off-loading, patients with diabetic wounds are asked to avoid walking or bearing weight for several days until the wound has healed. While this might be difficult for patients who are used to being on the go, devices like total-contact casts, half-shoes and removable cast walkers can provide support for when you absolutely must be mobile.
Preventing diabetic wounds
While wounds are common for patients with diabetes, they are not inevitable. You can be proactive about preventing wounds in yourself or in a loved one by checking daily for signs like cuts, sores, bruises, redness and blisters on the feet or in between toes. It may be difficult for you to examine your entire foot, so ask a loved one for help if you need it.
Additionally, you can manage your risk for wounds by being proactive about your health. Some people may be at a greater risk for wounds than others, including those who have:
- Poor circulation
- Diabetic neuropathy
- High cholesterol or blood sugar
- A history of foot wounds or other deformities (like hammertoe or bunions)
- A history of smoking
- Excessive alcohol intake
Talk to your doctor about how you can manage your risk.
Wound healing at Main Line Health
The Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Centers of Main Line Health specialize in treatments for slow-healing and chronic wounds. As a comprehensive wound center, we provide a full assessment, tailored treatment, advanced wound therapies, patient education and support. Our goal is to heal the wound as quickly and efficiently as possible and to eliminate wound-related symptoms and complications. With four locations—Lankenau Medical Center, Bryn Mawr Hospital, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital—our team delivers advanced wound care conveniently located near you.