At Encompass Healthcare, Dr. Bruce Ruben and his team of wound doctors treat diabetic wounds on a daily basis.
We see a lot of different types of non-healing wounds from patients with Diabetes and we’re asked how to help these wounds heal (and how to help diabetic wounds heal quicker). Here are some treatment processes you can do at home to ensure these wounds do not become bigger health concerns.
First, and very importantly, find any cuts you have, including scrapes, and treat these wounds immediately.
If you treat new wounds right away, you can start caring for them before things get bad.
As soon as you find a cut or sore:
+Wash your hands with soap and water.
+Rinse off the wound with warm water.
+Apply pressure to stop any bleeding.
+Apply antibiotic cream and cover with a bandage.
Also, if you don’t know you have a wound, you can’t treat it quickly. So if you suffer from neuropathy, keep an eye out for new wounds. Check your hands and feet daily, and don’t forget to check between your toes.
Wearing white athletic socks can help, too. If you see a red spot or a place where your sock is sticking to your skin, check your foot to see if you have a wound that’s new or not healing.
Take pressure off the area – if your wound continues to reopen or experience damage, it won’t heal quickly and may get much worse. So avoid putting stress, pressure and weight on wounds.
It can be difficult for some wounds like ones on your feet. If you need help, talk to your doctor about ways to protect your wounds while maintaining mobility. Special shoes and customized foot padding are common options.
Keep your wound clean and covered with the right dressings
Wounds heal best when they are clean and moist. So it’s important to get them clean and covered right away. If you have a new scrape or cut, a basic bandage and antibiotic cream should work just fine.
But if you have wounds that are infected, slow healing or more serious, make an appointment with a doctor to learn what the best wound care is for you. Your doctor will likely recommend different types of diabetic wound care dressings to protect the injury and promote healing.
Common types of dressings for diabetic wound care:
Foam dressings – Extremely soft and absorbent, foam dressings are used for wounds that leak or ooze a lot. They also offer added cushioning which can help protect the wound against physical damage.
Alginate dressing – These types of dressings are primarily made from seaweed. They can hold up to twenty times their weight in moisture, making them a great choice for deep wounds and ones with discharge. Another advantage of alginate dressings is that they prevent the growth of new bacteria.
Hydrogel dressings – Hydrogel is a water-based gel designed to keep an area moist. If your wound is dry or covered in dead skin, your doctor may recommend a hydrogel dressing to provide moisture. This can help break down dead tissue and promote cell growth. These types of dressings usually aren’t used for infected wounds.
What happens if diabetic sores or wounds are left untreated?
Wounds tend to heal more quickly with care and attention. But when you live with diabetes, everyday wounds are more likely to turn serious when they stick around for too long.
Foot ulcers or wounds
If foot wounds are left untreated, they may turn into foot ulcers, which are often called diabetic foot sores. About 20-25% of people with diabetes will get a foot ulcer at some point in their life.
Here’s how foot ulcers develop:
- The foot forms a callus.
- The callus receives ongoing damage. Most often, this happens when a person has neuropathy and can’t feel when their foot is hurt.
- Since the damaged callus isn’t treated when it should be, the skin erodes, leading to an ulcer.
Most foot ulcers are on the ball of your foot, often near your big toe. A foot ulcer looks like a red sore. If there’s pus and the wound smells badly, it may be infected.
If you have a foot ulcer, you should talk to your doctor. If it’s infected, you should make an appointment with your primary care doctor as soon as possible.
Foot ulcers can take a long time to heal – about three months – and you’ll need to check in frequently with a doctor to make sure that the healing process stays on track. In some cases, you may need special shoes to reduce pressure on the wound.
While this may all seem like a lot of work, there’s a reason to stick with it. If your foot ulcer doesn’t heal, it can turn into something more serious, possibly even the loss of a limb.
Gangrene – Gangrene occurs when body tissue dies – Fortunately, this condition isn’t common. But it’s something to watch for, because it can cause serious issues if not caught and treated early.
Gangrene often begins with an infected wound. It usually starts in a certain area like a finger or toe, and then can spread over time. If the infection remains untreated for too long, the surrounding tissues can start to die.
Signs to watch for include:
- A reddish line around the wound, becomes black
- Loss of sensation around the wound
- Skin that has turned an unusual color, such as red, blue, bronze or greenish-black
- Wounds that repeatedly reappear in the same place
If you think you have gangrene, you should get medical help right away. Your doctor will remove the affected tissue and repair the area, possibly with a skin graft. Infection will be treated with antibiotics.
If gangrene isn’t treated soon enough, the result can be amputation. The doctor may need to remove a finger or a toe to keep the gangrene from spreading – and if there’s a lot of dead tissue, they may need to remove an arm or leg. In some cases, gangrene can be fatal, so make sure to get treatment at the earliest sign of this condition.
Osteomyelitis – Infected wounds can infect your bones, causing a condition called osteomyelitis. If bone infections aren’t treated, parts of your bones can die. Symptoms to look for include:
- Swelling and redness
- Skin that’s hot to the touch
- Pain or tenderness
- Yellowish pus coming through your skin
If you think you have a bone infection, make an appointment with your primary care doctor. There are effective treatments for osteomyelitis, but they work best when the infection is caught early.
Encompass Healthcare and Wound Medicine offers advanced treatments for severe and chronic diabetic wounds.