Diabetes makes you more vulnerable to serious medical complications than otherwise healthy individuals. All it takes is a tiny problem to start the proverbial snowball rolling down the hill. As that snowball gains momentum, it becomes much harder to stop—to the point that it can ultimately run you over and leave you absolutely crushed under its weight.
We don’t want you to end up in a situation wherein a diabetic wound—which can become a diabetic foot ulcer—puts you in a dangerous situation. Knowing why ulcers develop, how they can affect your body, and what you can do about them will go a long way toward keeping you safe.
Diabetes affects the entire body. This makes sense if you consider the fact that A) the condition is marked by high levels of glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream and B) every part of your body relies on blood for health and vitality. The disease compromises organs and body systems, including damaging nerves, decreasing vascular supply, and neutralizing the effectiveness of white blood cells.
Issues like those all lay the groundwork for dangerous situations. Diabetic neuropathy takes away your ability to be aware of cuts, scrapes, and other problems. Weakened blood flow and neutralized white blood cells keep the body from being able to heal the damage. Further, the elevated sugar levels affect collagen production, which is essential for both providing strength to skin—pressure points are a common cause of diabetic foot ulcers—and allowing wounds to heal.
This all means any kind of wound—which can mean cuts, scrapes, blisters, ingrown toenails, and basically anything out of the ordinary (whether from internal or external origin)—can continue to exist without being properly addressed. If you are able to feel these kinds of issues, you will probably provide some kind of care (like using antibiotic ointment on a cut, for example). When diabetic neuropathy takes away your ability to recognize problems, they are more likely to go untreated.
Untreated wounds can open the door for dangerous infections to take place. Your body doesn’t have the resources to heal the wounds (restricted blood flow, compromised immune system), and they become dormant somewhere between 2-4 weeks. To put it another way, the body has essentially given up at this point.
Identifying Diabetic Wound Problems
Diabetic foot ulcers are the most challenging wounds to treat on account of complications. Constant wound management is essential for any chance to save the limb, and possibly your life. We view diabetic wounds the same way you might view cancer. Actually, we probably view them even more seriously – the mortality rate for diabetic foot ulcers is actually worse than the mortality rates for breast, colon, and prostate cancers.
If you are able to catch a problem early, it constitutes your best chance to avoid a major medical emergency. Now, just because you don’t feel pain, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. Since neuropathy takes away your ability to feel problems, you have to find them with your eyes – which means inspecting your feet on a daily basis.
As with everything in life, you have a choice. Sure, you can certainly choose not to check your feet every day, but this means you will likely end up without feet to check!
If you are being responsible and inspecting your feet on a daily basis, you really want to be on the lookout for any redness, swelling, or draining. Those are all signs of infection. Infections can be bad enough for otherwise healthy individuals, but when diabetes is in the picture, an infection is downright dangerous.
Perhaps one of the most concerning situations is when you have neuropathy—nerves damaged from the elevated blood sugar levels—and actually feel painful sensations. You can think of this as being like a 3-alarm fire.
Diabetic Wound Treatment
Depending on the stage of your diabetic wound, treatment options can include diabetic shoes, diabetic inserts, collagen supplementation, biological treatments, and an appointment with an endovascular surgeon.
Diabetic shoes may help by offloading pressure from specific regions of the feet. Diabetic inserts can also be used to do the same thing. These are similar to, but different from, other orthotics we prescribe. In this case, the inserts are accommodative and offer greater protection for the feet.
A topical collagen supplement may be used to help strengthen skin and protect a wound from worsening. Collagen supplements have actually been used in the cosmetic industry for decades, so they have an established track record of being safe.
Due to diabetes, your body doesn’t provide enough blood to heal wounds. This can be attributed to the reduced blood supply caused by the disease. There can be some hope on this front, though. Endovascular surgeons may be able to open up blood vessels to improve circulation. These medical specialists save limbs, which saves lives!
If your own health, or the concern of loved ones, isn’t enough motivation for you to care for diabetic issues, perhaps you want to consider the cost. When early treatment is not administered, we often have to use biological options, which are quite expensive. For example, an amniotic-based graft will set you back $3000 every two weeks.
Professional Diabetic Wound Care
High blood sugar levels might feel good, but it can do some really bad things to your body. You simply must manage your diabetes to keep your feet safe, and potentially even save your life. The importance of diabetic foot care cannot be overstated, so come see us. We can help you create a plan centered on prevention and catching problems early.
For more information, call us today at (317) 545-0505 and request an appointment. We will be glad to help!