Diabetes occurs when your body becomes unable to produce enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that your body uses to convert glucose or sugar into energy. If your body experiences difficulty in metabolizing glucose, this may cause high blood sugar levels to take place. The condition is called Hyperglycaemia, which may further lead to lessening your body’s ability to heal diabetic wounds.
In the United States, approximately 30.3 million people have a type of diabetes, and most of these people suffer from complications caused by delayed diabetes wound healing and associated infections.
Diabetes and its impact on wound healing
In diabetes, wounds heal slowly and develop more rapidly. So it’s critical to know about the factors contributing to wound healing and worsening in diabetes.
For people living their lives with diabetes, minor cuts, scars, and burns may become an uncontrollable yet unfortunate part of life. In several cases, these diabetic wounds tend to not heal completely, or never ever get healed. Due to this, an infection can occur at any time which can have serious consequences for diabetic patients. An infection may spread to nearby tissue and bone as well as other areas in the body. In some cases, and in the absence of immediate medical attention, an infection can be fatal or life-threatening.
Even if no infection develops in a wound, slow diabetes wound healing can have a negative impact on a patient’s overall health and wellbeing. Cuts or injuries to the feet or legs can make walking or exercise challenging or painful.
Why do diabetics` wounds heal slower?
When you experience diabetes, several causes contribute towards damaging your body`s function to heal wounds quickly, like:
- High blood glucose: Medical sources suggest a significant correlation between blood sugar and diabetes wound healing, which explains why does diabetes heal slower.
When your blood glucose levels get elevated than normal, it certainly is responsible for the below consequences that ultimately slow down the diabetes wound healing process.
- Affects your immune system to function properly
- Stops nutrients and oxygen from entering cells and energizing them
- Maximize and worsen inflammation in the body`s cells
- Neuropathy (nerve damage): This is caused by having consistently higher-than-normal blood sugar levels. This causes damage to the nerves and vessels over time and may further cause numbness in the affected areas. Neuropathy usually occurs in the feet and hands. When this happens, you may not always be able to sense the wounds, which is one of the main reasons why patients with diabetes have a higher rate of foot wounds.
On an estimate, 1 in every 4 people with diabetes will develop foot ulcers which are extremely painful wounds and may eventually lead to amputation of the foot.
- Poor blood circulation: Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to poor blood circulation. Blood moves slowly as circulation begins to slow, making it nearly impossible for the body to deliver nutrients to the area surrounding diabetic wounds. As a consequence, the injuries may heal slowly or not at all.
- Immune system deficiency: When blood sugar levels remain consistently high, it causes white blood cells to function improperly. White blood cells play a critical role in the function of our immune system. When white blood cells fail to function properly, the body becomes less capable of fighting bacteria and healing diabetic wounds.
- Sepsis and infections: An alarming increase in blood sugar levels is linked to a subsequent increase in the risks of sepsis and infections. Given the fact that bacteria tend to live or be active on extra sugar levels running in the bloodstream. Moreover, high blood glucose levels prevent immune cells to combat bacteria. Therefore, if infections could be detected at an early stage, further complications like gangrene can be avoided.
Factors increasing the risk of infection:
- Impaired sweating
- Dry and brittle skin
- Toenail fungus
- Foot anomalies
Consequences of diabetes wounds if left untreated:
As discussed above, people experiencing poor or slower diabetes wound healing are also prone to developing underlying problems with blood vessels and nerves. This may lead to other problems including heart disease, kidney problems, and impaired vision.
If an infection is present in the wound and is not treated, it may proceed to the stage of Gangrene. Gangrene is a major cause of amputations in diabetic patients who have lost limbs. Studies suggest that approximately 230 amputation surgeries are performed every day in the United States.
How to help diabetes wound heal faster: Prevention and cure
Adequate foot care includes:
- Regular foot washing
- Avoiding barefoot walking
- Before applying moisturizer, pat the skin dry
- Toenails must be carefully trimmed
- Putting on comfortable shoes
- Daily foot and shoe inspection
- Timely follow-ups to the doctor
When to visit the doctor
If you are dealing with a diabetic wound, you should consult your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Loss of sensation
- Constant pain
- Sense of burning
How to live well with diabetes and support quick healing:
Below are a few recommendations you should consider to improve your immune system:
- Consuming a healthy diet: Since diet has a direct impact on blood glucose levels, hence adequate nutrition is essential. If you keep on maintaining good glucose levels, you are more likely to avoid wounds and counter diabetic slow healing.
Diabetes patients can improve their glucose level by avoiding refined carbohydrates, added sugars, and junk foods which also aids in the consumption of ﬁbers, vegetables, and fruits. Better nutrition provides your body with the adequate amount of nutrients it requires to overcome slow wound healing like vitamin C, zinc, and protein.
- Exercise: Exercise aids in the improvement of insulin sensitivity. This promotes quick healing by allowing sugar in the bloodstream to enter your cells more efficiently.
- Smoking: Smoking cigarettes make your immune system weak and increase the chances to worsen your diabetes management which could lead to further complications, including heart diseases.
- Honey: Research suggests ‘topical honey’ as an effective alternative dressing for the healing of diabetic foot wounds.
See Also: The Future Of Diabetes Management
At Family Medicine Austin, we provide standardized care to ensure accurate diagnosis, treatment, management, and education for diabetes and wound care, along with diabetes-related risks. For proper examination, please visit our clinic or call for instant assistance.