Thursday, August 21, 2014
Diabetes and wounds can be a dangerous mix. Even a small nick can grow quickly into a serious problem. Because diabetes can lead to complications like a weakened immune system, a wounded person with diabetes is at serious risk for infection. A person with diabetes will often have difficulty moving blood from their arteries to the wound site, since diabetic arteries are often more narrow than average. The limited blood flow will prevent the wound from healing quickly. In some situations the nerves themselves have become damaged and insensitive to pain. A diabetic might not even be aware of his or her injury until the damage has become very serious.
The feet and legs of a diabetic are especially susceptible to wound complications. Circulation there is poor and can lead to increased swelling. In addition, it’s hard to rest those parts and keep them immobile. There’s an increased risk in these areas of wound contamination and blistering. That’s why it’s even more important for the diabetic to wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes. Poorly fitting shoes often go unnoticed because of damaged nerves. Blisters then develop into unnoticed infections. An unfortunate percentage of diabetics develop ulcers on their feet—many times leading to hospitalizations.
Because of this, staying alert to any injuries a diabetic may incur is essential. Advise a diabetic to clean out all wounds as soon as they occur. Though this isn’t a replacement for a strong immune system, it can help. Remind the diabetic to clean the inside of the wound with only water. Other commonly used substances like soap or iodine may make the wound take even longer to heal. Recommend an antibiotic ointment combined with regularly changed bandages. Follow this suggestion with instructions to visit a doctor as soon as possible. Don’t wait for the diabetic person to become injured to give them this advice. Mention it before any problems arise so that when an injury does occur, they’ll already know what to do.
To prevent these problems, especially if the diabetic has nerve damage, encourage the diabetic to inspect places that are vulnerable to wounds daily. The sole of the foot and between the toes are especially important as wounds in these places can go unnoticed. But even if the nerves don’t provide notice of problems, a visual check can pinpoint any injuries early on. If the diabetic notices any swelling or odor, infection has already progressed to a dangerous point. He or she should contact a healthcare professional immediately.
To prevent problems like this make sure the skin stays healthy, clean, and properly moisturized. Dry, cracked skin can allow dirt past the skin and into the body. Conversely, overly moist skin, especially on the feet, can lead to fungal problems. Daily cleaning can keep skin sterile. Good socks can help keep the feet remain clean and dry throughout the day. Some may even help with circulation.
With a few simple lifestyle modifications, such as clean socks and comfortable shoes, the risk of wound infection can be minimized. Daily skin inspections and cleanings can keep skin healthy. Increased awareness of the danger will help the diabetic manage the risk.