No matter how small or superficial a wound is, you should not ignore it if you have diabetes, says Daniel Cohen, DPM, a podiatrist with Medical Associates of Brevard in Brevard County, Fla. If you stub your toe, get a blister from tight shoes, or nick your chin while shaving, you probably give it little thought. But if you have diabetes, you should seek proper treatment.
Knowing how to treat minor wounds will help you avoid infection and speed healing.
Why Diabetic Wounds Can Cause Problems
Diabetes is a chronic disease where your body can't use glucose, or sugar, the way it should. It can cause a number of complications, including some that make it harder for wounds to heal. These include:
- Nerve damage (neuropathy). When you have neuropathy, you may not feel the pain of a cut or blister until it has grown worse or become infected.
- Weakened immune system. When the body's natural defenses are down, even a minor wound may become infected.
- Narrow arteries. People with clogged arteries in their legs are more likely to develop wounds, have severe wound infections, and have problems healing. Narrowed arteries makes it harder for blood to get to the wound. Blood flow promotes healing, so anything that blocks it can make wounds more likely to become infected.
How to Treat a Diabetic Wound
If you have a wound, no matter how small, take the following steps to avoid infection and promote healing:
- Take care of the wound immediately. Even a minor wound can become infected if bacteria are allowed to build up after injury.
- Clean the wound. Rinse the wound under running water to remove dirt. Don't use soap, hydrogen peroxide, or iodine, which can irritate the injury. Then apply antibiotic ointment to prevent infection, and cover the wound with a sterile bandage. Change the bandage daily, and use soap to clean the skin around the wound. Inspect your wound daily for any signs of infection.
- See your doctor. Don't take any chances -- have your doctor check minor skin problems or areas of redness before they turn into larger problems. Err on the side of caution, says podiatrist and wound specialist Robert Snyder, DPM, medical director of the Wound Healing Center at University Hospital in Tamarac, Fla., and incoming president of the American Academy of Wound Management in Washington, D.C. "It's far easier to treat a minor skin problem before it becomes serious," he says.
- Keep pressure off the wound as it heals. For example, if your wound is on the bottom of the foot -- a common place for diabetic people to develop calluses and blisters -- stay off it as much as possible so it will have a better chance to heal, says Snyder.