Diabetic wounds tend to heal slowly, but worsen rapidly. Hence, to heal the existing wounds faster and prevent new wounds, close and regular monitoring of the body is extremely important.
Several health problems occur once you are diagnosed with diabetes, one of them being slow healing of wounds. The healing process is significantly affected by two major aspects - first, factors that are associated with the wound itself, and second, factors associated with the body system, which do not have any relation to the wound. Factors associated with the wound include desiccation or dehydration, infection in the wound, trauma to the wound, necrosis (dead, necrotic tissue causing slow healing), pressure on the wounded area, and maceration (urinary and fecal incontinence affecting the skin). The systemic factors affecting the healing process include age, body type, poor nutritional status, chronic diseases, suppression of the immune system, radiation therapy, and decreased blood supply leading to ulcers.
In general, poor blood circulation, blood sugar levels, infections, nerve damage, and deficiency in the immune system are the key factors that contribute to the slow healing of wounds in diabetics. In order to treat slow healing wounds, a diabetic must undertake a few self care measures and should contact a health care provider in the case of a wound not responding to self care treatment, or in case an emergency stems from the delayed healing.
Self Care For Improved Wound Healing
Since diabetic wounds have limited medical help, the patient needs to opt for simple self care methods to enable faster healing of wounds. The following methods include both, guidelines for healing existing wounds, as well as prevention from future development of wounds.
► Immediate attention to the wound will help to prevent it from developing severe infections. Rinse the wound under running water to do away with the dirt accumulated in the area. Do not use any kind of soap or hydrogen peroxide or iodine to clean the wound because it can irritate the wounded area.
► Swelling (edema) reduces the body's ability to provide oxygen and essential nutrients to the wounded area due to poor blood circulation, which amounts to a delayed healing of the wound. Hence, try to keep the swelling as minimal as possible.
► Dry skin also plays a major role in delaying the healing process of diabetic wounds. Remember, wounds that are dressed regularly and kept warm, tend to heal faster because the cells that contribute to the healing process need a moist environment. Also, try to be a little quicker in dressing sessions because exposing the wound to open air for long may drop its temperature, slowing down the healing process. Avoid taking hot showers, and use a non-scented moisturizer to prevent the skin from drying.
► Stop smoking to increase blood circulation and prevent the wound from worsening. It will also be helpful to maintain overall health.
► Chronic inflammation may worsen the wound and hamper its healing. A regular exercise regimen, especially aerobics, helps to reduce inflammation by controlling weight gain and lowering blood sugar levels.
► Try to take the pressure off the wound, which is known as 'off-loading'. For instance, if you have calluses or blisters on the sole of your foot, then stay off the foot as much as possible to allow faster healing. Putting the foot in a special support boot until it heals will be better.
► Focus on a healthy diet. A nutritionally rich diet, especially one with vitamin A, C, E, and zinc is known to heal wounds faster. Also, a well-nourished body leads to healthy skin that prevents a breakdown and development of new wounds.
► Avoid interfering with the body's natural healing process, and do not take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, which may hamper the action of the cells of the immune system.
► Feet are more susceptible to ulcers in diabetics. Do not walk barefoot; wear clean, dry socks to protect your feet from cuts, cracks, and openings in the skin, which may give rise to bacterial growth leading to serious infections.
Medical Treatment Methods
If you notice that self care is not helping heal your wounds, then contact your doctor right away for professional medical treatment. The health care team undertakes a complete examination of your wound and initiates appropriate treatment. There are non-surgical as well as surgical methods that the doctor may choose, depending upon various factors like the stage of the wound, age of the person, body type, etc. Here are some treatment options your doctor may choose for you.
► Wound Assessment
► Wound Debridement
► Use of Bioengineered Substitutes for Faster Healing
► Negative Pressure Wound Therapy
► Lower Extremity Compression Therapy
► Lymphedema Therapy
Please note that these treatment methods and stages vary from one wound healing center to another. Furthermore, the individuals who have other health problems may need Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for better healing of wounds. During this therapy, the patient breathes 100% oxygen in a pressurized space for an hour or so. The extra oxygen gets dissolved in the blood and is distributed to the cells that are trying to heal the wound.
Foot ulcers are the most common wounds for diabetics and prevention is the best treatment for these wounds. A diabetic should check his feet daily for any minor cuts or cracks in the skin, moisturize the feet regularly, use appropriate size footwear, wash the feet daily, and keep the toenails clipped evenly. Approaching a doctor for regular monitoring of the feet will be more helpful in preventing wounds.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not, in any way, intend to replace the advice of a medical professional.