Prevent Diabetic Wounds from Developing
We still use the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” because it’s one-hundred percent true. It is always better to prevent a condition from developing than to treat it, and this is especially the case for diabetic wounds.
Wounds like cuts and scrapes, along with skin issues like calluses, might not be a major concern for otherwise healthy individuals. Even ingrown toenails can be painful, but aren’t usually considered to be a medical emergency. When diabetes is also in the picture, though, these can all be troubling circumstances.
As you probably know, diabetes is a condition that develops on account of excessive glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream. Heightened glucose levels lead to an array of health problems, including nerve damage (neuropathy). One of the most concerning symptoms of neuropathy is the inability to feel physical sensations. We often refer to this as a loss of protective sense (LOPS). It might help to think about this like having a car where the “check engine” light doesn’t go on, even when there are serious problems.
You likely take it for granted, but your sense of touch is essential for keeping you safe. Without it, you have to rely on your other senses. That might be alright for threats that are easy to see or smell, but how often do you look at your bare feet? Further, even if you spend a lot of time looking at your feet, you simply cannot see microscopic bacteria and fungus, both of which can lead to infection.
Infections are particularly concerning with diabetes because the body’s immune system cannot fight them off the same way an uncompromised immune system can. Without the ability to feel the damage happen in the first place, you will likely be unaware of the present issue. Since it isn’t being treated, the problem can escalate to the point of gangrene (tissue death). Unfortunately, the only “treatment” for gangrene is amputation.
Neuropathy is found in over half of all cases of diabetes, so an important part of responsible foot care with this disease is preventing diabetic wounds from developing. How can you do this? Well, there are several ways, including:
- Always inspecting your footwear. Before you put on any sock or shoe, take a moment to make sure there isn’t anything inside. We had a patient whose granddaughter accidently had dropped a small toy into his shoe. Due to his neuropathy, he was unable to feel it, even as the toy dug into his small toe. Unfortunately, this led to gangrene within only three weeks.
- Always wearing footwear. Whereas someone without diabetes can walk around barefoot at home, this is not the case for diabetic individuals. Protecting your feet is a primary concern, and that entails wearing footwear whenever you are walking around.
- Keeping paths clear. There are some paths in your home that you walk more frequently than others, like to the kitchen or bathroom. Make sure there is plenty of space on either side and nothing you might stub a toe against.
- Addressing issues early. As soon as you recognize anything out of the ordinary—including calluses and ingrown toenails—schedule an appointment with our office. Speaking of which…
- Seeing us regularly. Every two months, come in to see one of our doctors. As long as there aren’t any major concerns, these visits will be brief (but they might help you save a toe!).
These tips will help you prevent diabetic wounds, but it is still quite important for you to perform a daily foot inspection. This will allow you to catch problems at their earliest, most-treatable stages. Remember, if you find anything out of the ordinary—discoloration, damage, abnormal bumps—see us as soon as possible. In the case of signs of infection—warmth, redness—seek immediate medical care.
Our goal is to make sure you arrive at the “pearly gates” with all ten of your toes, and this should be your goal too! Contact us today to find out what we can do for you. Request an appointment and we will work together to create your diabetic foot care plan. Call our Hawthorne, CA office at (310) 675-0900 and our friendly staff will be glad to help you.