How Do People With Diabetes Heal Sores? 10 Ways

Medically Reviewed on 5/26/2022
How Do People With Diabetes Heal Sores
Here are 10 ways to heal sores caused by diabetes, as well as treatment options that can help speed up wound healing

If you have diabetes, you are more likely to develop sores that do not heal as quickly as they should. Wound healing is affected by fluctuating blood sugar levels, nerve damage, and poor blood flow associated with diabetes.

Here are 10 ways to heal sores caused by diabetes, as well as treatment options that can help speed up wound healing.

10 ways to heal diabetic sores

1. Keep your blood sugar under control

Keeping your blood sugar under control can lower the risk of minor cuts and scrapes from turning into sores and can also help promote the healing of existing ulcers.

2. Clean the wound

Unless your doctor advises you to do otherwise, use mild soap and water to clean your wounds. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide as this can slow healing and increase your chances of infection.

3. Remove dead tissue

Dead tissue in and around a wound promotes bacterial growth, which can lead to an infection and make it difficult to determine the severity of the ulcer. Your doctor can help you remove damaged tissue to increase the healing capacity of the wound.

4. Keep the wound covered

Depending on the location of the sore, your doctor may show you how to bandage the area. Make sure to keep the wound covered, as airing it out can increase the risk of infection and delay the process of healing.

5. Change out wound dressings

Wound dressings protect injuries from infection, and changing them regularly ensures that they continue to do so. They also help keep the wound moist. This is significant because wet wounds heal more quickly than dry wounds. Moisture also promotes the formation of new cells.

6. Do not apply pressure

Applying pressure restricts blood flow, which in turn inhibits the healing process. Keeping pressure off the affected area encourages blood flow into the damaged region, promoting faster healing.

7. Inspect your skin regularly

Early diagnosis and treatment of infected wounds can help you avoid serious complications such as hospitalization and amputation. Check your skin for symptoms of infection such as warmth, redness, discharge, or foul odor. 

8. Take medications as prescribed

If your doctor has recommended topical medications, use them as directed. If you have been given antibiotics, take them as prescribed.

9. Eat a nutritious diet

Good nutrition helps manage glucose levels and provides your body with the vitamins and nutrients it needs to repair and heal. Your defenses will benefit from vitamin C, complex carbs, and adequate protein. Speak with a registered dietitian who will be able to create an appropriate eating plan for you.

10. Quit smoking

Smoking hinders blood circulation by damaging the inner wall of the blood vessels, which results in delayed healing. Quit smoking to allow oxygen-rich blood to reach the wound and promote cell repair.

What adjuvant therapies can help heal diabetic sores?

Adjuvant therapy is administered in addition to primary therapy. Since standard wound treatment may not be appropriate for all patients, early use of complementary therapy may improve results. 

If you have a persistent ulcer that has not improved or decreased in size by 50% in 4 weeks, looking into additional therapy may be beneficial. Treatment options may include the following:

  • Bioengineered skin substitutes: Bioengineered skin replacements contain growth factors that encourage and enhance wound healing. There are several bioengineered skin replacements available, including those produced from porcine (pig), bovine (cow), and human skin tissue.
  • Skin grafting: Split-thickness skin grafting is a treatment alternative for large and difficult-to-heal diabetic foot lesions. It involves removing a small piece of skin from your own calf or thigh and stretching it over the open wound. This new skin will be integrated at the wound site, resulting in wound closure. Alternatively, depending on the location of the wound, your podiatrist may recommend a skin flap. This may entail surgically excising the wound and then manipulating neighboring skin over the incision site.
  • Recombinant growth factors: The FDA has authorized becaplermin topical gel, a bioengineered platelet-derived growth factor, to treat diabetic foot ulcers.
  • Platelet-rich plasma: This involves taking a sample of your blood that is centrifuged, and the layer containing platelets (clotting cells) is injected to promote wound healing.
  • Placental membranes: Placental membranes obtained from human placental tissues can be used for wound healing.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy: The FDA has authorized hyperbaric oxygen therapy for the treatment of nonhealing diabetic foot ulcers and severe skin and bone infections. You enter a room in which the air pressure is increased, which increases the delivery of more oxygen to the tissues.
  • Vacuum-assisted closure (VAC): VAC is also known as negative pressure wound treatment, which involves applying a vacuum and a sponge to the wound. It draws fluid from the wound and stretches new healthy skin cells over to fill it. 


Diabetes: What Raises and Lowers Your Blood Sugar Level? See Slideshow

What affects wound healing with diabetic sores?

Wound healing in patients with diabetes is affected by a several factors, including:

  • High blood sugar: High blood sugar levels hinder wound healing at the cellular level by increasing cellular inflammation and disrupting immune system function.
  • Nerve damage: Diabetes can result in nerve damage (neuropathy), which is most common in the hands and feet. This means that people with diabetes who sustain a wound may not realize they have one and hence may not receive treatment. As a result, the wound may worsen. The combination of poor healing and decreased feeling in an afflicted area increases the risk of infection.
  • Poor circulation: Diabetes increases the risk of developing peripheral vascular disease, a disorder characterized by impaired blood circulation. Blood arteries constrict, and as a result blood cannot reach your extremities as easily as it once did. All of this has an impact on the wound healing process. Diabetes-induced damage to the inner lining of blood vessels causes poor blood vessel growth in areas, affecting healing and normal skin repair.
  • Weakened immune system: In people with diabetes, the quantity of immune cells supplied to wound sites is drastically decreased, impairing the body's capacity to fight pathogens and raising the risk of infection. Diabetes can also impact wound healing by weakening the skin barrier, reducing collagen production, and affecting growth hormone synthesis.
Medically Reviewed on 5/26/2022
Image Source: iStock Image

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