Wounds, also called ulcers, are a severe complication of diabetes and can pose significant consequences and challenges for your feet, and ultimately your entire body. Wounds that don’t heal, get infected, and aren’t treated properly can ultimately result in widespread tissue death. It may possibly require the removal of a toe, foot, or more to stop the spread of infection. Diabetes is, by far, the leading cause of non-traumatic amputations in America today.
At Omega Medical Group (OMG), a multi-disciplinary approach to advanced wound care is one of the core specialties of our practice. Dr. Marizeli Olacio, our podiatrist, Dr. Manuel Gonzalez, our vascular surgeon, and Dr. Anthony Domingo, our endocrinologist are dedicated to doing everything in their power to heal your wounds, prevent or stop the spread of any infections, and restore your lower limbs to full health without requiring amputation, if possible.
Why Diabetic Wounds Are So Dangerous
Diabetes naturally slows circulation in your feet and suppresses your ability to close wounds and fight off infection. Cuts, blisters, corns, even deep cracks in skin may seem like small problems, but when you have diabetes, your body isn’t able to deal with them as quickly or effectively, and they’re more likely to become bigger wounds and get infected.
Diabetes also often causes peripheral neuropathy, a condition in which nerves, most commonly in the feet, become damaged and may lose their ability to sense pain. As a result, injuries and problems that can lead to wounds might go missed unless you are carefully checking your feet every day.
Common Wound Symptoms
Diabetic wounds have a wide range of signs and symptoms that can be indicative of their presence, including:
- Signs of inflammation – heat, pain, redness, swelling, and loss of function
- Chills and/or fever, which is usually an indication of a worsening infection
- Chronic pain (but please be mindful of the fact that complete painlessness with diabetes is also concerning)
- Dulling of sensations or even new numbness in the lower limbs
- Signs of infection – discharge, drainage, foul odor, and dead tissue (gangrene)
If you live with diabetes, anything unusual or abnormal should be considered a source of concern and carefully monitored for potential tissue breakdown.
Treating Diabetic Wounds
When you detect a problem, don’t wait—make an appointment with us as soon as possible. This greatly reduces the infection risk and improves the odds that wound care treatment will go as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Successful wound treatment involves several key steps, including:
- Cleaning and removing the wound of dead skin, foreign particles, bacteria and other debris or infecting agents using sterile techniques so that they don’t get in the way of healing. This is called debridement.
- Applying necessary medications and antibiotics and dressing the wound in appropriate bandages to fight infection, keep them clean, and promote healing. Many of the advanced wound care products that we use at OMG do not even require daily changes, and due to their potency and effectiveness patients usually require less oral medication.
- Keeping weight off the wound while it heals. Depending on the location and severity of your wound, this may involve temporary use of orthotics or special shoes, casting, a walking boot, crutches, or even a wheelchair.
It is likely that we may need to schedule additional follow-up appointments for additional debridement, reapply bandages, and check on your progress. In some cases you may have some “homework” you will need to do, as well. Managing your blood sugar is extremely important while a wound heals, so you’ll need to be disciplined about keeping it within a healthy range—our specialist in diabetes Dr. Anthony Domingo can help in managing your glucose at optimal levels. Of course, we will provide you with detailed instructions so that you feel comfortable and confident about your home care responsibilities.
Diabetic wounds are not just a foot and ankle problem. If your feet aren’t working, your whole body suffers, and if you end up losing a foot to amputation—as far too many people do—it will have lifelong consequences for your ability to stay happy, active, and healthy.
We can’t stress this enough: if you see any signs at all of a diabetic wound or ulcer on your feet, please call OMG immediately for treatment as soon as possible. You can schedule an appointment at our office in North Miami Beach or in Miami Shores by calling (305) 514-0404, or you can request an appointment online.