Diabetes occurs due to the impairment in production and usage of insulin by the body, causing an increased level of blood glucose. This leads to people with diabetes having impaired immune systems, disrupted circulatory and nervous systems, leading to slow healing of wounds. Additionally, if these wounds are left untreated, they can get infected and delay healing even more and in some cases, even needing amputation. Hence, timely care and monitoring of these wounds are crucial in diabetes.
Delayed healing in Diabetes is often associated with the following factors:
Increased blood sugar levels impair the functioning of the immune system. Cells cannot extract oxygen and nutrition, and the inflammation in body cells increases predominantly. All these factors cause a delay in wound healing.
In diabetes, the blood vessels and nerves get damaged. It is more common in hands and feet. Due to the loss of sensitivity, the worsening of these wounds causes their slow healing in patients with diabetes.
Diabetes causes peripheral vascular disease in which the blood vessels become narrow. Blood circulation in peripheral areas becomes very poor. It also decreases the number of red blood cells passing through the blood vessels. Increased glucose levels also increase the viscosity of blood. These factors make the wound heal slower.
Increased sugar levels lead to the breakdown of glucose into Dicarbonyl. Dicarbonyl weakens the immune system of the body. Glycosylation of proteins in diabetes affects the natural functioning of the immune system. These factors increase the time taken in the healing of a wound.
Increased levels of glucose in the bloodstream attract more bacterial infections. Bacteria thrive on the excessive sugar in the bloodstream. Toxin levels also increase at the site of the wound. These changes increase the chances of infection in wounds.
The untreated wounds in diabetic patients can get infected. The infection can spread locally to the muscles and bones. It can further progress to gangrene. The decreased blood supply in gangrenous tissue increases the chances of amputation. Additional complications of untreated wounds include the spread of infection in the bloodstream, also known as sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening medical condition.
Treating wounds at early stages is easier and faster for diabetic patients. Doing a self-check every day helps detect the wounds earlier. Always check your hands and the skin between toes as these are more prone to wound. Wearing white socks can also help in early identification, as you see blood spots or pus discharge easily.
The formation of dead tissue around the wound increases the chances of infection. Hence, keeping the wounds free from dead tissue helps in faster healing.
Wound healing is fast if the wound is clean and moist. For this, the dressing should be kept clean and changed frequently. Special dressings designed for wound care in diabetics can also be used. These include foam dressings, alginate dressings, and hydrogel dressings.
The healing of wounds requires you to take special care of the area in patients with diabetes. Putting pressure and weight can lead to reopening and damage the wound. The use of customised shoes or foot padding helps keep pressure off the area. It also helps speed up the recovery of wounds.
The dietary component plays a vital role in wound healing. The deficiency of vitamin C, zinc, and proteins hampers the healing process. Hence, diabetic patients must maintain a high intake of proteins, vegetables, and fruits. These dietary changes can also help lower the blood glucose levels.
Wounds in diabetes require extra care. You will need medical assistance if you see any of the following symptoms:
Appearance of any one or more of the above symptoms may mean a wound infection or the formation of gangrenous tissue; all of which reflect associated complications to a wound. Immediate attention from a doctor can prevent worsening of the condition and prevent further complications like gangrene and amputation from occurring.
The best way to avoid diabetes and its complications is to nip it in the bud! Minute changes in lifestyle can make a huge difference in preventing or managing diabetes and wounds. Wound healing is a multistep process involving various physiological systems of the body. The altered physiology of the body in diabetes causes the healing of wounds in patients with diabetes to get delayed. Even small scratches in diabetes patients can lead to amputation due to complications in wound healing. Hence, early detection and extra care of these wounds are necessary for faster and more adequate healing.