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Why It’s Important to See a Doctor

Zangeneh and Kavros say the most dangerous mistake people with diabetes make is letting a wound go for days or even weeks without seeing a doctor. “Sometimes people try to do self-medication at home or they do foot soaks, which are totally inappropriate,” Kavros says. People with nerve damage or circulation problems may develop a serious skin infection called cellulitis, which Kavros describes as "a rip-roaring infection that travels up your leg and needs to be treated in the hospital.”

Often it takes a coordinated approach to deal with the underlying problems that prevent a wound from healing. “Sometimes a patient will come to me and say, ‘I’m on my third antibiotic, but it’s not helping,’” Zangeneh says. “Well, even a small infection raises your blood sugar level and that makes it harder for your immune system to fight infection. So you also need to make sure your blood sugar level is normal. And you need to have a good blood supply in order to get the oxygen there to heal. A wound care specialist can coordinate all of this.”

The bottom line, says Kavros, is not just preventing amputation. “When you lose a leg, your chance of losing the other leg within three years is 50%. And the chance of dying from cardiovascular disease within three years is 40% to 50%. So if we can prevent the loss of a limb, we’re basically also giving people a longer life.”

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