If you have developed a diabetic sore or ulcer, your doctor may perform a procedure called debridement, which removes dead tissue from the wound to promote healing.
Your doctor will try to keep the sore from becoming bigger or infected by:
- Cleaning and dressing the wound: Cleaning and dressing the wound daily using soap and water can help prevent infection.
- Keeping the wound bandaged: Depending on the location of the ulcer, your doctor may recommend bandaging the wound in a certain way.
- Avoiding pressure on the ulcer: You may need to use crutches, a brace, or special footwear to keep pressure off the ulcer, especially if it is on your foot.
- Using topical medications: Topical medications may include saline, growth factors, and skin substitutes.
- Controlling blood sugar: Keeping your blood sugar under control helps your body heal from existing ulcers and prevent new ones from developing.
- Using hyperbaric oxygen therapy: Your doctor may recommend this to deliver more oxygen to the wound and promote healing.
If the above measures do not work or the ulcer develops gangrene, your doctor may have to amputate that particular area of the body, although this is rare.
What causes diabetic sores?
Diabetic sores are open wounds that often affect the feet and legs but can also form in other areas such as the hands or folds of the skin on the abdomen.
One of the main causes of diabetic sores is high blood sugar levels, which can damage the nerves and blood vessels over time and restrict blood flow, especially to the limbs. This makes it harder for wounds to heal.
Diabetes makes a person more likely to develop ulcers or sores because of the following:
- Neuropathy: Nerve damage reduces the sensation in the feet, making them insensitive to minor cuts or injuries.
- Poor blood circulation: Poor blood flow makes it harder for even minor wounds to heal. Diabetes is also linked to a condition called peripheral arterial disease, which reduces blood flow to the legs and feet.
- Reduced immune function: The immune system is responsible for fighting off and stopping infections, but in people with diabetes, the immune system is less effective.
Even minor wounds or small cuts can turn into serious foot ulcers if not treated properly.
What do diabetic sores look like?
Diabetic sores may appear as:
- Hot, swollen, and painful blisters on the skin
- Itchy rash
- Dry, scaly skin
- Ulcers with discharge that may be watery, white, yellow, or greenish
Diabetic sores or ulcers are dangerous because they can lead to serious infections or even gangrene. Seek immediate medical help if you notice signs such as:
How can diabetic sores be prevented?
Diabetic sores can be prevented by:
- Monitoring blood sugar levels
- Keeping blood sugar levels under control through diet, exercise, and medications
- Checking the skin regularly (especially the feet) for blisters, cuts, cracks, sores, redness, white spots or areas, thick calluses, discoloration, or other changes
- Trimming toenails to prevent injury
- Maintaining good hygiene by washing your feet often and fully drying them
- Avoiding walking barefoot, as this can increase the odds of injuries, cuts, or wounds
- Wearing comfortable footwear
- Avoiding tight-fitting shoes
- Limiting or quitting smoking as this could damage blood vessels, decrease blood flow, and slow down healing
How long does it take for a diabetic sore to heal?
Unfortunately, diabetes interrupts the body’s natural healing processes.
Increased blood glucose levels associated with diabetes essentially strangle white blood cells and impair their function. Hence, it may take weeks or even several months for diabetic foot ulcers to heal. However, healing time depends on several factors such as severity of the wound, extent of blood sugar control, and type of treatment given.
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Lisa Fields. Diabetes and Wounds: Caring for Sores. WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/features/diabetes-wounds-caring-sores
Camille Noe. How to Care for Diabetic Ulcers and Sores. WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/diabetes-sores-ulcers-care
Diabetic Foot Ulcers: Prevention, Diagnosis, and Classification. American Family Physician: https://www.aafp.org/afp/1998/0315/p1325.html
Diabetic Ulcer. NIH: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499887/