A cut finger or blister from a new pair of shoes is not something you normally would head to the doctor over. But if you have diabetes, you should be aware of any injury, no matter how small, since the disease can affect how well your body heals.
Diabetes causes poor circulation and it also inhibits sensory nerves from transmitting pain or other signals to your brain. Both circumstances can lead to problems with healing. A cut that you can’t feel is more likely to be overlooked until it becomes infected. Diabetes also causes narrow arteries, and people with clogged arteries in the legs are more likely to develop complications. Blood flow promotes healing, so having narrow blood vessels make it hard to get necessary oxygen to the wound.
People with diabetes commonly have injuries that turn into wounds on their ankles or the bottoms of their feet. A diabetic foot ulcer is an open sore that heals slowly and therefore has a higher risk of infection. Vascular diseases and high blood sugar can reduce the body’s ability to fight off infection.
Providing proper care to a wound is one of the best ways to prevent complications. Time is crucial when it comes to injuries. Even a small wound can become infected with bacteria over a few days. Here are the steps to take for a fresh cut or injury:
- Clean the wound using water only.
- Apply antibiotic ointment to prevent infection.
- Cover the wound with a sterile bandage.
- Change the bandage every day.
- Keep pressure off the wound.
- Call your doctor if you see any signs of infection.
Prevention is important when it comes to blisters, calluses and chafing. Since diabetes may prevent you from feeling an injury, check your skin for any inflamed areas regularly. Wear shoes and socks that help you avoid blisters. Take special care when washing and drying your feet, and keep your toenails clipped to prevent them from rubbing your other toes. Also, stock up on the following first aid helpers:
- Lotion: Moisturizer helps prevent tiny cracks caused by dry skin
- Saline: Good for irrigating wounds
- Antifungal cream: Cures athletes foot
- Antibiotic cream: Use on cuts and scratches
- Sterile gauze pads: Apply over wounds
Taking proper care at home is the first step towards keeping wounds under control. Remember to follow up with a visit to your doctor, since even minor wounds or sores should be checked out by a wound care specialist if you have diabetes. For more information on managing diabetes, visit us online at St. Petersburg General Hospital or call our Consult-A-Nurse® line at 727-341-4055 for a free doctor referral.