Prevention of diabetic wound ulcer

By Dr. Sergio Mazzei, General Surgeon

Diabetes mellitus, commonly known as diabetes, is a metabolic disease that causes high blood sugar. Untreated high blood sugar from diabetes can damage your nerves, eyes, kidneys, and other organs.

High blood glucose causes stiffening of the arteries, narrowing of blood vessels, and diabetic neuropathy, which is nerve damage throughout the body, particularly the limbs. The effect of these body changes causes increased risk of wounds.

Ulcers are open wounds on the skin that don’t heal properly. You’re most likely to get ulcers in your feet and legs, but they can also form in other areas

There are several reasons why diabetes raises the odds of getting ulcers. One of the main symptoms of diabetes is high blood sugar. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage nerves and blood vessels. That lessens blood flow (especially to hands, feet and limbs), which makes it harder for sores and cuts to heal and makes you more likely to get an infection, too. Moreover, diabetes is linked to a condition called peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which lessens blood flow to your legs and feet.

Nerve damage also makes it harder to feel pain or other symptoms of ulcers or infections, which can keep you from treating smaller wounds before they become ulcers.

Ulcers are dangerous because they can lead to serious infections or even gangrene, which is when your tissue dies. In some cases, the only way doctors can treat the infection or gangrene is to amputate the affected area.

There’s a lot you can do to lower your chance of having ulcers:

Good blood sugar control is the best way to control diabetes. Medication and lifestyle can help to make diabetes under control.

Check your skin every day while paying special attention to your feet. Look for blisters, cuts, cracks, sores, redness, white spots or areas, thick calluses, discoloration or other changes. Also, don’t rely on pain; even feeling more warmth or cold than usual can be a sign of having an open wound, and it’s possible to feel nothing at all.

Smoking damages your blood vessels, decreases blood flow, and slows healing. Those things raise your risk of ulcers and amputation.

Injuring your toes or foot can present a serious problem and wearing shoes that cover your whole foot can help prevent injury.

If you do get an ulcer or notice a change in your skin that you’re not sure about, tell your doctor right away. You’ll likely get a procedure called debridement, which removes unhealthy tissue from the wound to spur healing. Your doctor will also work with you to try to keep your ulcer from getting infected and becoming bigger.

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