How Does Diabetes Affect Wound Healing? [Video]

  • High blood sugar levels can slow down wound healing.
  • Bacteria feed on excess sugar in the bloodstream. 
  • Untreated foot wounds may lead to foot ulcer and leg amputation.

How diabetes affects your body

Diabetes results from the body’s inability to produce or use insulin, a hormone responsible for turning glucose, or sugar, into energy. If your body can’t efficiently metabolize glucose, it can increase your blood sugar levels and affect your body’s wound-healing ability.

In diabetes patients, a wound progresses quickly and heals slowly. Wounds are common in the foot, and a small injury can quickly turn into a foot ulcer. If untreated, a foot ulcer may result in lower limb amputation. Treating wounds early is the only way to prevent this. 

Factors that affect wound-healing

If you have diabetes, several factors can affect your body’s wound-healing ability.

High blood sugar levels

Your blood sugar level plays a significant role in how fast your wound will heal. When you have high blood sugar levels, it can prevent nutrients and oxygen from energizing cells, weaken your immunity, and increase inflammation in your body cells—these decelerate wound healing.

Neuropathy

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High blood sugar levels can also result in peripheral neuropathy, which results from the damage of peripheral nerves. This condition can cause weakness, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet or other body parts. This condition can prevent you from feeling wounds when you get them.

Poor circulation

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Diabetes patients are at a higher risk of developing peripheral vascular disease. This blood circulation disorder causes your peripheral blood vessels to narrow and reduce blood circulation to the limbs. A high blood sugar level further increases blood thickness, harming the body’s blood circulation even more.

Immune system deficiency

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Most diabetes patients also have compromised immunity, which decreases the number and efficiency of immune fighter cells that heal wounds. 

Infection

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If your immune system is weak, your body is more susceptible to infection. Bacteria feed on the extra sugar in the bloodstream, so a high blood sugar level also increases the risk of infection. 

What can happen if wounds are left untreated

Diabetes patients are 15 times more prone to have amputations due to foot wounds or ulcers. 

Here are tips to encourage faster wound-healing process:

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Regular self-check. Do daily self-checks to catch wounds early, especially on your foot. 

Remove dead tissue. Dead cells and excess tissue often come with diabetic wounds, increasing wound infection. See your doctor for the proper removal of these dead tissues. 

Change dressings regularly. Keeping dressings fresh can prevent infection and maintain the wounds’ appropriate moisture levels. 

Keep pressure off the area. Pressure can tear the skin further, causing a deeper wound or ulcer.

When to see your doctor

Wearing white socks can help with wound healing as it will allow you to see blood or other signs of drainage easier. See your doctor if your wound comes with tingling, burning, numbness, pain, or swelling. 

How to promote long-term health and healing

Eat a healthy diet. Reducing your consumption of processed carbohydrates, added sugars, and fast food and eating more fiber, fruits, vegetables, and legumes can help you maintain a healthy blood sugar level and promote faster wound healing. 

Exercise regularly. Exercise helps glucose enter your cells more efficiently for faster healing and better health. 

Quit smoking. Smoking prevents your cell from transporting oxygen, disrupts your immune system, and doubles your risk of vascular disease.

Consider honey. According to research, honey can be used as an alternative dressing for a diabetic foot ulcer to promote faster healing. 

Source: Healthline



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