Diabetes is a chronic health condition where your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't use the insulin it produces effectively.
Insulin is necessary for the human body to turn glucose, or sugar in the blood, into energy. Without the proper amount of insulin, glucose builds up in the bloodstream, causing high blood sugar and adverse health effects.
One of the effects of diabetes is slow wound healing. People with uncontrolled diabetes are likely to have slow-healing wounds or diabetic ulcers, especially on the legs and feet.
If you're living with a wound that won't heal, the team at Meridian Plastic Surgery can help. Dr. Mark Elliott and Dr. Lee Thornton are leading our team, both esteemed plastic surgeons.
Dr. Elliott and Dr. Thornton treat chronic wounds through surgical and nonsurgical techniques to help you avoid infection and other complications.
Diabetes is a medical problem where the body can't use insulin properly or make enough insulin to control the glucose in the blood.
There are different forms of diabetes, including type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. With type 1 diabetes, the body can't produce insulin, resulting in high blood sugar. In contrast, type 2 diabetes affects how your body uses the insulin it produces.
Living with diabetes means your body can't properly control blood sugar levels, often resulting in high blood sugar. Over time, high glucose levels in the blood cause problems like nerve damage and decreased blood flow to the extremities.
However, you can manage diabetes through lifestyle changes, insulin injections, or oral medications, which help your body effectively use blood sugar and keep blood sugar at acceptable levels.
How diabetes affects wound healing
One of the main problems with diabetes is poor wound healing. But how does this happen?
Diabetes causes the glucose in the bloodstream to rise, only using some for energy. As the blood sugar rises, it causes damage in various body areas.
For instance, high levels of blood glucose damage nerves, resulting in a condition known as diabetic neuropathy. It also leads to peripheral vascular disease, which results in poor circulation to the legs and feet.
Neuropathy and poor circulation are two reasons wounds don't heal properly in people with diabetes. Neuropathy makes it challenging to feel cuts or wounds, making it more likely that you don't treat the wound properly.
Poor circulation prevents oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood from reaching the wound, significantly slowing the healing process.
High blood sugar also prevents proper wound healing by creating chronic inflammation and preventing your immune system from working correctly.
Signs of a wound that won't heal
Diabetic foot and leg ulcers are the most common type of wound in people with diabetes. These ulcers form from a cut or scrape that you don't notice and doesn't heal.
You don't often feel a diabetic foot ulcer forming because of nerve damage in the legs and feet. Foot ulcers are dangerous and sometimes lead to severe complications such as infection and the need for amputation.
You must inspect your legs and feet daily to look for signs of a foot ulcer. Symptoms of a slow-healing diabetic wound include:
- Noticeable drainage on your socks
- Swelling in your ankle or foot
- Redness and inflammation
- Decreased sensation in the foot
- Foul smelling odor coming from the foot
If you have any of these signs, it's crucial to seek help from our team immediately. The sooner you seek treatment, the less likely you will suffer extreme complications from a slow-healing wound.
Tips to prevent chronic wounds
If you're living with diabetes, controlling blood glucose levels is the best way to prevent chronic or slow-healing wounds. That means getting diabetes treatment, regularly checking blood sugar levels, and taking medication or insulin to control the condition.
You must also check your feet and legs daily for cuts, scrapes, or lacerations that could lead to a chronic wound or ulcer. Other tips to prevent slow-healing wounds include the following:
- Washing your feet every day
- Drying the feet thoroughly
- Don't walk barefoot
- Cut your toenails carefully
- Wear shoes that fit right
You can also have our team evaluate your skin health at your appointments to ensure no sign of a wound healing problem.
If you already have a chronic wound, we evaluate the stage of the wound and provide treatments like debridement, compression treatments, and bandaging or skin grafting.
Call our office at 601-693-7742 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Thornton or Dr. Elliott to discuss wound care options for diabetes or request an appointment online.