More than 100 million people in the United States live with pre-diabetes or diabetes, and the numbers are increasing rapidly each year. The bad news is, diabetes doesn’t stop within the disease. It also comes with a long list of complications that don’t only add burden to the affected individual but also affect their quality of life, one of which is delayed wound healing.
The Normal Wound Healing Process
Every wound goes through four stages of healing. The first stage is called hemostasis where the wound is closed by clotting. Inflammation follows right after where localized swelling is experienced in the affected site. This is the body’s natural response to a wound to control bleeding and prevent infection.
The proliferative phase begins when new tissue is rebuilt. In healthy wound healing, this granulation tissue is usually pink or red and doesn’t bleed easily. Dark granulation tissue, on the other hand, can be a sign of infection or ischemia. The wound healing process ends with the maturation phase where the wound fully closes and collagen is remodeled. This usually occurs 21 days after the injury.
Wound Healing in Diabetic Patients
Unfortunately, wound healing is a lot slower for diabetic patients and it can cause pain, discomfort and a lot of frustration. Diabetic sores, for instance, can appear on the lower extremities and can measure up to six inches. They are itchy, painful and without proper management, can take a while to heal. But how exactly does diabetes slow down wound healing?
Elevated Glucose Levels
Blood sugar plays a huge factor in wound healing and when it’s above normal levels, it can prevent nutrients and oxygen from energizing your cells, increase inflammation in your body and affect your immune system.
Impaired Blood Circulation
Wounds heal faster when there is proper circulation in the affected area because blood is needed for skin repair. Unfortunately, poor blood circulation is a common complication of diabetes due to its effect on the nerves. This is why conditions such as diabetic sores and other wounds on the lower extremities heal slowly and can even lead to fungal infections and gangrene.
Peripheral neuropathy caused by elevated sugar levels can also cause diminished sensation in the nerve and vessels, which is why a lot of diabetic patients don’t notice wounds in their extremities immediately. If left untreated by professionals, these wounds can be a cause for amputation, which is one of the worst things that any diabetic patient can go through.
Diabetes causes the immune system to function poorly, which could easily make a patient susceptible to infections. This is why proper care is needed for wounds like diabetic sores and glucose levels must be controlled to avoid infections that could cause sepsis or gangrene.
For individuals who are not diagnosed with diabetes but have wounds that heal slowly, this could be a symptom of the disease. Therefore, it’s best to see a doctor right away so necessary laboratory tests to confirm diabetes can be performed and a proper wound care and management plan can be implemented.
We specialize in diagnosis and treatment for any and all wound care issues for patients in San Diego County, Orange County and Riverside County. For more information or to set an appointment, please contact us.