Scratches, Scrapes, Cuts, and Diabetes

From the WebMD Archives

If you have diabetes, your eyes might be your best medicine when it comes to protecting your skin.

Act quickly to treat any small cut, scrape, or scratch to make sure it heals properly, says James L. Roth, MD. He's a family physician in Johns Creek, GA. Check your body daily for even small wounds so you can treat them right away.

“You have to keep it clean, keep it covered, and keep looking at it to see if it’s getting better or getting worse,” he says. “If it’s not healing within two days, if it is not granulating [forming a scab], and if the skin is not coming together, go to the doctor. People with diabetes don’t heal as well. They don’t have good blood flow. Wounds don’t always get better quickly. Cuts and scrapes can fester and turn into something worse.”

If you think you've gotten an infection, tell your doctor as soon as possible. Don't wait. Some major infections need to be operated on, and some people risk needing to have part or all of a limb surgically removed (amputated).

Boost your odds of avoiding a problem with serious consequences. Here's how to treat wounds and spot the symptoms of an infection.

First Aid

If you notice a small cut, scrape, wound, or even a scratch, take these steps to treat it:

  • Wash the wound with soap and water.
  • Avoid using antiseptics, rubbing alcohol, or iodine. These products may irritate your skin.
  • Use antibiotic creams or ointments if your doctor approves.
  • Cover with sterile gauze or a bandage.
  • Keep pressure off your wound, such as tight clothing or shoes that may rub against it and make it worse.

Infection Warning Signs

Cuts, scrapes, scratches, or blisters on your feet can become an ulcer. These deep, open wounds can allow bacteria into your bloodstream.

You could become very ill or risk needing an amputation if you don’t seek care. It’s important to keep any infection controlled, before it gets into your system, Roth says.

Watch for these warning signs that your cut or scrape may be infected:

  • Hot to the touch
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Unusual draining, such as pus
  • No scab after a day or two
  • Cut isn’t closing up after a day or two


Call your doctor if you think your wound is infected or isn’t healing properly, Roth says. Your doctor or a foot specialist called a podiatrist may give you antibiotics, dress your wound, drain pus, and remove infected tissue so your wound can heal.

If your cut, scrape, or scratch leads to a serious infection, you may feel other symptoms, including:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Throbbing pain
  • Foul smells from the wound
  • Inflammation
  • Red lines around the skin near the wound

These are serious warning signs of an infection in your body, and you should seek emergency medical care.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on December 27, 2014



James L. Roth, MD, Piedmont Urgent Care, Johns Creek, GA.

Fred Williams, MD, Endocrine and Diabetes Associates, PC, Louisville, KY.

American Diabetes Association: “Skin Care.”

Diabetes Coalition Resource of Long Island: “Know Your Feet.”

Houston Methodist Multidisciplinary Health Center: “Conditions and Treatments: Diabetic Foot Wounds.”

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