Diabetes can affect all parts of the body and diabetic nerve damage can turn an ordinary scrape, cut or burn into a serious issue. If a wound does develop, immediate treatment and healing is very important. Faster healing provides less chance for an infection or other complications.
Your treatment team may include your primary care physician, podiatrist, nurse, endocrinologist, vascular surgeon, orthopedic surgeon, dermatologist, infectious disease specialist, physical therapist, or others.
Treatment may include:
- taking pressure off the area, especially when the wound is on the foot
- removing dead skin and tissue
- applying medicines or dressings to the wound
- therapy to improve blood circulation
- skin graft or skin substitutes
- managing blood sugar and other health problems
Controlling your blood sugar may help with wound healing. It’s also important to avoid all tobacco and nicotine products since they interfere with wound healing.
The earlier a wound is detected; the better treatment outcomes normally are. A wound may be apparent after a cut, scrape, burn, or surgery, but sometimes a wound is less obvious. This is especially a concern for people with diabetic nerve damage affecting their feet. If you find an open sore on the skin of your foot, visit your doctor right away. Do not wait for pain, fever, pus, or redness to develop. At each of your visits with your diabetes doctor, take off your socks and shoes. The nurse or doctor can look for wounds and check for risk factors for skin ulcers. With appropriate steps, you can lower your risk of a diabetic foot wound.
You can help prevent wounds from developing by knowing your risk factors and making healthy lifestyle changes. You are at higher risk for a diabetic foot ulcer if you have:
- poor blood circulation
- a foot deformity (such as a bunion or a hammer toe)
- inappropriate shoes
- uncontrolled blood sugar
- or a history of a foot ulcer in the past
Lifestyle habits that can help minimize the growth of foot ulcers and other wounds include:
- choosing healthy eating habits
- managing your weight
- being physically active
- wearing appropriate footwear
- avoiding tobacco
- and following your doctor’s advice about certain medicines
Dr. Jeffrey S. Kerr is a board-certified endocrinologist and member of Cone Health Medical Staff. Dr. Kerr is a 2000 graduate of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Cone Health and completed his fellowship in Endocrinology at Southern Illinois School of Medicine.