Diabetes Education

Diabetes Wound Care

Many people with diabetes will experience problems caring for wounds during their lifetime. Wounds heal more slowly for people with diabetes and require special care.

Care of the skin is one of the most important aspects of routine diabetes maintenance. Without proper precautionary measures, minor cuts or injuries can quickly turn into serious problems. Diabetics often heal more slowly than normal because of reduced blood flow to affected areas. Diabetics also may not notice injuries right away if they suffer from diabetic neuropathy, nerve damage which can numb sensations and pain.

People with diabetes need to take extra care when they develop a wound. Here are a few guidelines to follow for wound care and prevention.

1.  For uninfected wounds or minor burns, people with diabetes may apply antibiotic ointments to prevent infection. If signs of infection occur, such as redness, pain, or inflammation, seek the help of your medical advisor.

2. Wounds and ulcers should be cleaned daily with mild soap and covered with dressings or bandages, as wounds heal best when covered and moist.i Moist dressings do not need to be changed as frequently as moist-to-dry dressings, so they are convenient to the patient. Moreover, moist dressings usually lessen pain and reduce the number of re-injuries compared to dressings that allow the wound to dry out.ii

3. For serious wounds, especially infected ones, consult with a doctor for treatment recommendations immediately. Skin infections in people with diabetes usually require prescription medications, such as antibiotics or ointments specially formulated for people with diabetes.

4. During routine skin care, people with diabetes should avoid using any implement that abrases the skin, such as pumice stones and callus or corn removers. These products can potentially do damage to delicate or injured skin.

5. Keep skin hydrated by using moisturizing lotions to prevent cracking, which can lead to infection.

6. Monitor your blood glucose levels carefully to help wounds heal more quickly.

7. Foot wounds are especially prevalent in people with diabetes. Avoid walking barefoot to prevent foot injuries. To promote healing of foot wounds or ulcers, people with diabetes should alleviate the pressure to the area as much as possible. Application of medicines and dressings is also important to speed healing. You may wish to wear therapeutic shoes or socks that are designed to address the needs of people with diabetes.

Proper care and prevention of wounds can help people with diabetes avoid serious complications. Be sure to inspect your feet and body every day for signs of cuts or injury, and to treat each problem right away.

i http://www.podiatrists.org/visitors/foothealth/general/diabwound/
ii http://www.orthopedictechreview.com/issues/junjul99/pg51.htm

Marci Sloane, MS, RD, LD/N, CDE

Article was reviewed by Marci Sloane, a registered and licensed dietitian/nutritionist and certified diabetes educator. Marci graduated with a degree in Nutrition and Physiology from Teachers College at Columbia University. Marci manages a Diabetes and Nutrition Education Center in South Florida and is the author of The Diet Game: Playing for Life!

The goal of Destination Diabetes® is to be a useful and credible resource for the more than 20 million children and adults who have diabetes in the U.S. and their families. Destination Diabetes® provides information on a wide range of diabetes health and wellness topics. Articles are written or reviewed by diabetes advisors who have experience in diabetes education.