A person who manages their diabetes well can improve the rate at which wounds heal and reduce the chance of serious infections.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 37.3 million people in the United States have diabetes, which is 11.3 percent of the population.
Many of them will experience complications as a result of infected wounds.
This article looks at the effects of diabetes on wound healing and considers ways to reduce the risk of complications.
How Does Diabetes Affect Wound Healing?
Minor cuts, abrasions and burns are an unfortunate but inevitable part of life. However, for people with diabetes, these lesions can lead to serious health problems.
Many people with diabetes develop wounds that are slow to heal, do not heal, or never heal. Sometimes, an infection can develop.
The infection can spread to the tissue and bone near the wound, or it can spread to more distant parts of the body. In some cases, if a person does not receive emergency care, the infection can be fatal or life-threatening.
Even when a wound does not develop an infection, slow healing can adversely affect a person’s overall health and quality of life. Cuts or injuries on the feet or legs can make walking difficult and cause pain when exercising.
It is important for people with diabetes to keep their blood sugar levels under control to reduce the risk of slow-healing wounds and complications, including foot ulcers.
According to some reports, 1 in 4 people with diabetes develop foot ulcers. Foot ulcers are painful sores that can eventually lead to foot erosion. If a person with a foot ulcer has peripheral neuropathy, a form of nerve damage that can be associated with diabetes, they may not feel pain.
According to a 2020 article, diabetes contributes 25-90% of all strokes within the studied population Trusted Source. Other studies have shown that the risk of diabetes-related amputations is three times higher in black Americans than in people from other racial and ethnic groups.
Why Does Diabetes Interfere With Wound Healing?
Research shows a clear connection between blood glucose and wound healing. Diabetes affects how the body produces or responds to insulin, a hormone that allows cells to take in and use glucose from the bloodstream for energy. This disruption in insulin makes it difficult for the body to regulate blood glucose levels.
When blood glucose is persistently high, it affects the function of white blood cells. White blood cells are central to the role of the immune system. When white blood cells don’t work properly, the body is less able to fight off bacteria and nearby wounds.
Uncontrolled diabetes can also affect circulation, causing blood to move more slowly, making it harder for the body to deliver nutrients to wounds. As a result, wounds heal slowly or may not heal at all.
Diabetes can also cause diabetic neuropathy, which can affect wound healing. Uncontrolled blood glucose can damage nerves and cause tingling sensations in the area. This may mean that people with diabetes who sustain trauma to their feet may not be aware of the injury.
If a person is unaware of an injury, they may not seek treatment, which can make the injury worse. The combination of slow healing and reduced sensation in the area significantly increases the risk of infection.
People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of developing a bacterial wound infection.
Factors that increase this risk include:
- impaired sweating
- foot abnormalities, such as Charcot’s foot
- toenail infections
- dry and cracked skin
Diabetes might also affect wound healing in other ways, such as:
- reducing the production of growth and healing hormones
- reducing collagen production
- weakening the skin barrier
- decreasing the production and repair of new blood vessels
People who experience poor wound healing due to the effects of diabetes on nerves and blood vessels may also experience other complications. These include heart disease, kidney disease, and eye problems.
If an untreated wound becomes infected, the infection can spread locally to the muscles and bones. Doctors call this osteomyelitis.
If the wound becomes infected and untreated, it can progress to the stage of gangrene. Cut gangrene is a common cause in people who lose limbs as a result of diabetes.
Sometimes, people with uncontrolled infections develop sepsis, which occurs when the infection spreads to the bloodstream. Sepsis can be life-threatening.
Prevention and Treatment
People with diabetes can use specific strategies to minimize the time it takes for a wound to heal. These include managing blood glucose, practicing thorough foot care, and treating wounds as soon as they occur.
Foot Care for Diabetes
Appropriate foot care includes:
- washing the feet daily
- wearing comfortable shoes
- avoiding walking barefoot
- having a doctor check the feet at each visit
- inspecting the feet and looking inside the shoes daily
- patting the skin dry before applying moisturizer
- trimming the toenails carefully
People who manage their blood glucose levels are less likely to develop severe wounds that don’t heal.
While people with type 1 diabetes will need to take lifelong insulin to control their blood sugar, people with type 2 diabetes have more options. Taking insulin and other medications, as well as making certain lifestyle changes, such as eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and reaching or maintaining a moderate weight, can significantly lower a person’s blood sugar levels. Can improve.
These lifestyle changes allow a person to manage diabetes without medication.
People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes may benefit from a carbohydrate-controlled diet. It can be helpful to talk to a doctor, who can recommend an eating plan that includes a specific number of carbohydrates a person should eat each day.
When a person has diabetes, a wound that doesn’t heal quickly can become life-threatening. Prompt treatment and effective glucose management are essential for those with slow-growing wounds with a positive outlook.
People with diabetes should contact a doctor immediately if they develop serious or painful sores that do not heal after several days, or that appear to have developed an infection.
A combination of aggressive antibiotic therapy, wound debridement, surgical removal of dead tissue, and more effective glucose control may help. If the wound does not respond to treatment, amputation may be necessary.
People should take preventive measures before wounds develop to reduce the risk of wound healing complications.