Treating diabetic foot wounds

Diabetes makes it harder for your skin to recover from sores or infections. Without prompt and careful care, even a small sore can grow and become severely infected, leading to amputation.

Time heals most wounds. But if you have diabetes, the body's ability to heal itself may be affected.

That's because diabetes can affect the blood vessels, impairing circulation and slowing the healing process.

Meanwhile, nerve damage caused by diabetes can make feet and toes numb. A small blister or sore may go unnoticed and untreated, increasing the risk for serious infection.

If things get bad enough, a foot may even need to be amputated. For that reason, it's vital to check your feet daily for signs of trouble.

If you find a problem, get treatment right away, advises the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).

Getting help

Proper treatment speeds healing and reduces the risk for infection, according to the APMA.

To treat a wound, a doctor will:

  • Remove dead skin and tissue.
  • Advise you on gaining strict control over your blood sugar levels.
  • Instruct you on keeping the wound clean and covered.

Wounds that become infected can be treated with antibiotics. According to the APMA, healing may take a few weeks or even several months. During part of that time, you may need to wear special footgear or use a brace, crutches or a wheelchair to keep pressure off the wound. This also helps speed healing.

Avoiding problems

To help prevent foot wounds and infections, follow this advice from the American Academy of Family Physicians:

  • Call your doctor at the first signs of redness, swelling, pain that doesn't go away, or numbness or tingling in any part of your foot.
  • Talk to your doctor before you treat calluses, corns or bunions.
  • Wash feet daily with lukewarm—not hot—water and mild soap.
  • Dry your feet well, especially between the toes. Pat them dry instead of rubbing.
  • Apply cream or a lanolin lotion to keep your feet smooth. (Be careful when standing up if you're on a hard floor.)
  • Cut toenails straight across to avoid ingrown toenails.
  • Don't go barefoot.

Reviewed 10/26/2022

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