What you should know about the links between diabetes, chronic wounds
Diabetes is one of the most common diseases in the United States. According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population has the disease, and one in four people with diabetes don’t know they have it.
Diabetes is a condition in which the body cannot regulate blood glucose, or sugar, levels appropriately. As a result, glucose levels in the blood become elevated and, over time, can cause major health problems, including limb amputation or blindness. More than 60 percent of nontraumatic lower limb amputations in the U.S. are the result of diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Damage to the foot’s sensory nerves, called diabetic neuropathy, contributes to foot deformities and ulcers that increase the chance of lower-extremity amputations (LEA) unless treated.
You Ask, We Answer
Q: Is diabetes curable?
A: While diabetes can't be cured, it can be controlled. Awareness and prevention are at the top of the list when it comes to staying healthy.
Q: What can I do to prevent Type 2 diabetes?
A: Type 2 diabetes is the most common kind. Unfortunately, it is difficult to spot early on. However, it IS considered a preventable disease. By making lifestyle changes that include proper nutrition, weight loss and exercise, you can delay or even prevent diabetes. Focusing on the following areas can help you avoid or better manage diabetes:
- Healthy coping
- Healthy eating
- Being active
- Taking medication
- Problem solving
- Reducing risks
Q: How can I reduce the risk of chronic wounds?
A: For diabetic patients who lose sensation in their feet, problems may develop because they don’t recognize sensations of heat, cold or pain. They may not notice if they are standing in bath water that is too hot, or if they have a stone or sharp object in their shoe. This can lead to problems like skin ulcers and infections. In more extreme cases, bone infections and possibly amputation may result. In addition to seeing a podiatrist annually for a foot exam, take these four steps for effective foot care.
- Inspect. Look at your feet every day and check for cuts, blisters, calluses or swelling. If it’s hard to see the bottoms of your feet, use a mirror or have another person check for you.
- Protect. Before you step into a hot bath, check the temperature of the water with your elbow. Neuropathy will prevent you from feeling heat with your toes.
- Moisturize. Dry, cracked skin is a prelude to problems, so rub your feet with moisturizer. Never trim your own corns or calluses to avoid cuts you might not feel.
- Visualize. Look inside your shoes every day for small pebbles or splinters. They could rub against the skin on your feet and break it down.
The Wound Healing and Limb Preservation Center
The Wound Healing and Limb Preservation Center at The George Washington University Hospital helps those with chronic wounds caused by diabetes improve their quality of life. To schedule an appointment, request an appointment online or call 888-4GW-DOCS (virtual visits available).