Diabetes is an autoimmune disease that affects an alarming—and increasing!—number of Americans.
At present, over 29 million of our nation’s citizens are afflicted with this disease, and almost 80 million more have higher-than-normal blood sugar levels (“prediabetes”) and an elevated risk of developing diabetes as a result of that.
The core problem with diabetes is the damage heightened blood sugar (glucose) levels does to body systems, including the nervous, circulatory, and immune systems. These issues contribute to major health threats like kidney failure, blindness, heart attacks, and strokes, but feet also can develop problems that are life-threatening.
As you will see, that systemic damage plays a major role as we discuss diabetic wound care – one of the valuable services you can receive at McDowell Orthopedics & Podiatry Group.
The Threat of a Diabetic Wound
When used in the context of diabetes, the word “wound” can pertain to all manners of issues, including cuts, bruises, blisters, calluses, burns, lumps, and even ingrown toenails.
To make it a bit easier, you can think of a diabetic wound as being any injury, condition, or abnormality you would not expect to find on a healthy, otherwise normal foot.
No matter which of these seemingly minor problems you find, it’s a cause for concern and needs to be evaluated and treated by one of trained, experienced professionals here at McDowell Orthopedics & Podiatry Group.
Whereas issues like those are not usually a big concern for otherwise healthy individuals—aside from any pain or potential infection risk—wounds can break down and become dangerous foot ulcers when diabetes is in the picture.
The reason this happens goes back to the damage to those aforementioned body systems.
Problems start when peripheral nerves—the ones that enable you to feel physical sensations—are damaged from excess sugar. Sometimes this nerve damage (neuropathy) causes painful sensations, but it can also cause numbness. Even though one might think not feeling anything is better than being in pain, this isn’t the case at all.
See, when the damage has impaired your nerves’ ability to provide physical sensations, it is entirely possible to sustain a small cut or scrape, have a toenail become ingrown, or experience any other kind of injury or condition without knowing about it.
Given that you aren’t aware of an existing problem, you probably won’t take measures to address it – and this is concerning. The reason for that is because your diabetes-impaired circulatory system is unable to supply an adequate blood flow necessary for the wound to heal in a normal fashion.
If the nerve damage and impaired blood flow isn’t enough, diabetes compromises the immune system, which renders it unable to fight off potential contaminants as it’s supposed to.
Why Is Diabetic Wound Treatment So Important?
Out of all the essential foot care services podiatrists provide, professional treatment for diabetic foot ulcers might very well be the most important. Why is this the case? These wounds increase the risk for critically-serious medical complications—such as gangrene (tissue death).
There is no cure for gangrene—and the odds of one being developed in our lifetime are virtually nonexistent—so the only solution to prevent it from spreading is amputation. As such, it’s extremely difficult to overstate the importance of A) knowing how to prevent diabetic wounds and B) having all issues resolved at the earliest possible opportunity.
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, “ulceration precedes 85 percent of diabetes-related amputations.” That alone is certainly concerning, but even more so is the high five-year mortality rates for new-onset diabetic ulceration.
The reported rates of between 43 and 55 percent—and up to 74 percent for patients who have had lower-extremity amputation—are higher than those for breast, colon, and prostate cancers.
We know that sounds grim, but there is good news – early treatment for these diabetic sores can make a big difference!
At-Home Inspection and Early Intervention are Essential
Inspecting your feet on a daily basis is critical when you are diabetic. Sure, we can provide foot care services when you come see us, but you actually see your feet every day (or at least you’re able to).
Given the importance of catching problems early—and then seeking care as soon as possible—a daily foot inspection needs to be part of your greater diabetic foot care plan.
The best practice for this is to inspect your feet carefully and thoroughly every single day.
To help create a routine, you should conduct your inspection at the same time daily. For many individuals living with diabetes, doing this while getting ready for bed works quite well.
In the event you are unable to see the bottoms of your feet, either use a long-handled mirror or ask a loved one to help. Should any cuts, scrapes, blisters, swelling, or other skin and nail issues be observed, contact McDowell Orthopedics & Podiatry Group and request the earliest possible appointment.
If you become aware of any signs of infection—redness, fever, etc.—you need immediate medical attention.
How We Can Help
So what do you need to do when you find a diabetic wound? Put simply, you need to come see us as soon as possible. We provide services to protect your feet, including:
- Wound assessment. Our team at McDowell Orthopedics & Podiatry Group is trained and skilled at evaluating the situation and determining the nature of your wound. Essentially, this the first step in providing the care you need, one wherein we identify wound progression, infection, and potential healing.
- Tissue debridement. This particular service is a matter of removing necrotic (dead) tissue which can stimulate healing, allow inspection of underlying tissue, reduce pressure, and optimize wound dressing effectiveness (by helping with wound drainage or secretion).
- Infection control. One of the main concerns with diabetic wounds is infection risk. We can determine the appropriate measures necessary for infection control – including oral and topical antibiotics. This also entails ensuring that your wound dressing is not too wet (or too dry, but that tends to play less of a role with regards to infection control).
- Pressure offloading. A key factor for preventing complications from a diabetic wound is reducing or offloading pressure from appropriate areas in the lower limb. This is something we will discuss together at your appointment, so you can understand the importance of wearing the removable medical devices we prescribe.
Of course, even better than getting early treatment for a diabetic wound is preventing one in the first place!
Expert Diabetic Foot Care and Wound Treatment
For more information on preventing diabetic wounds or to request an appointment with our Carmichael, CA office, simply give us a call at 916-961-3434 and a team member will be happy to answer any questions or help set up your visit.
If you’d prefer, you can also contact our practice online right now.