June is Wound Care Awareness Month, so what should people with diabetes know about it? Wound healing is central to remaining healthy and functional. With diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, vascular disease or COPD, wounds may be slower to heal and you may be more prone to wound infections and less able to combat them. Non-healing wounds and wound infections are the leading cause of amputations in the developed world, and diabetes is the most common health challenge among people with amputations in the US. Wound prevention and care may seem like a small matter, but it is the first step in avoiding a very big problem.
So what should we be doing as people with diabetes to safeguard ourselves from the ravages of wound issues?
STOP SMOKING! Smoking directly inhibits wound healing and reduces the circulation of blood and oxygen to the wound site. Quitting smoking helps wounds start healing better TODAY!
Maintain good blood sugar control – this reduces the risks for any complications or health problems.
Check your feet, hands and skin folds daily for any signs of injury – use a mirror or ask a loved one for help. Contact your physician if you detect:
thinning or thickening of skin
changes in color or temperature
flaking or peeling skin
rashes, spots, or raised bumps
odors or seepage
Check the temperature of bathwater, showers, and even foods with a thermometer (not your hands or feet). Diabetes can reduce our ability to sense temperature and a burn is a wound that is hard to heal.
Always wear foot coverings when walking (both inside and outside) because of reduced sensation. It is easy to step on something sharp and injure a foot without realizing it!
Shoes, socks or braces should not pinch or bind and should leave room for good circulation.
Wash and fully dry your feet and any skin folds daily to prevent fungal growth.
Contact your healthcare provider for ANY wound that shows signs of infection or slow healing, including:
seeping or “puss”
warm to the touch
If the wound appears very dry around the edges
If a wound takes more than a week to heal
If you have a history of wound issues, non-healing wounds, wound infections, or peripheral vascular disease, venous ulcers, or other wound care needs notify your doctor immediately of any new wound or blister. Notify your doctor of any healing issues of a surgical site.
An amazing way to prevent wounds is to keep moving. Regular physical activity keeps the blood flowing and allows for optimal healing. Check with your healthcare provider about what activity you can do… even if you have a wound! And if you’re confined to a chair or bed, make sure to change positions at least every 15 minutes to keep blood flowing.
It is important to know that wounds are not gross to medical professionals! Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed of a wound or injury. We are not looking to reduce anyone’s freedom, mobility or independence! In fact, the goal of wound care nurses and doctors is to keep you healthy and independent and healing properly. There are specialty wound care centers, nurses and prescribers who are passionate about helping you heal and prevent future injuries to maintain your best quality and quantity of life. These professionals may even be able to come to your home to provide assessments, dressing changes and physical and occupational therapy to speed your healing. You can reach out to your local home health resources for more information and availability. Byram healthcare has a wound care clinical line available for customers to ask questions about their wound care needs: 1-800-902-9726 ext 43312.
Don’t be sidelined by a preventable and treatable wound! Don’t give up your quality of life or longevity! Do what you can to prevent wounds. But if they occur (they happen to us all), get help and follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.
Alicia’s diverse nursing career has given her experience with a broad range of clients and a variety of health conditions in addition to diabetes. One of her passions is advocating for the needs of her patients, whether it be in overcoming insurance restrictions, obtaining community resources, or coordinating with school systems and medical providers.