For most people, a blister or a cut on the foot might not be much more than a mere annoyance. It hurts, sure. You might be walking gingerly for a couple of days. You might put on some antibiotic ointment just to be on the safe side. But that’s about it.
But if you happen to be one of the 30 million Americans with diabetes, one small blister could be the first step along a path that leads to amputation—or worse.
Unfortunately, if you have diabetes, you may have a double problem to contend with:
- If the peripheral nerves in your feet aren’t functioning well, you may not even notice a cut or injury right away. It could possibly even go undetected for several days if you aren’t regularly checking your feet.
- If the circulation to your feet isn’t great, your body may not be able to heal those cuts particularly quickly, or at all. That gives invasive micro-organisms a longer opportunity to get in—and on top of that, they’ll be facing an immune system that isn’t as well equipped to stop them.
The best way to stop a small problem from becoming a big problem is to deal with it now. Not in a couple of weeks. Not only if it’s painful. (If you have severe neuropathy, even severe infections might produce little to no pain.) Not only if it seems to be growing. Now.
Catch the Problem Early
When it really comes down to it, wound care is really about two things:
- Reducing the length of time a wound is active (i.e., from the original cut or opening to the full healing of the skin) to be as short as possible.
- Properly protecting the wound while it’s healing to keep germs out.
Obviously, any time you have an injury or wound that you don’t know about makes both of these situations worse. So you need to make sure you catch problems early.
To that end, we strongly encourage all of our patients with diabetes to perform a brief (but rigorous) self-examination of their feet at least once per day. Do this at a regular time, in a well-lit room, using a mirror if necessary to make sure you can see every part of your foot. You should also check your feet after any activities more likely to cause damage, such as sports.
Any cuts, blisters, ingrown toenails, etc.—no matter how minor—should be attended to immediately. If they are serious or do not improve within a day or two, call us right away for further recommendations.
Wound Care Basics
Once a problem is identified, our top priority will be to make sure you get the care you need immediately so that your wound can heal as quickly as possible. Diabetic wounds should be considered urgent, so we will do everything we can to accommodate your need for an appointment as quickly as possible.
There are a few basic components to any wound care treatment. They include:
- Debridement. This is a fancy way of saying that we’ll clean the wound. Dead skin and tissue, as well as any foreign objects that have become lodged inside the wound, will be removed. This will help allow the wound to heal.
- Preventing / controlling infection. Any medications (including antibiotics) that are deemed necessary to reduce your risk of infection and help you heal faster will be applied. The wound will also be properly bandaged to protect it.
- Offloading. You should not walk on, or otherwise put pressure on, your ulcer. Depending on the location or severity of your ulcer, we may provide or recommend tools such as a walking boot, crutches, casting, or a wheelchair to give your wound a chance to heal.
At your appointment, we’ll also make sure you are educated about proper aftercare. Most wounds will need to be cleansed and have their bandages changed on a daily basis; we will show you (and/or your caregiver) how to do this properly. Managing your diabetes and blood sugar will also be extremely important during the healing process.
We’ll also assess whether you have any existing foot concerns—such as bone spurs, bunions, flat arches, etc.—that may be contributing to an increased risk of developing ulcers. If so, we’ll recommend further treatment options (orthotics, diabetic shoes, etc.) to help mitigate that risk.
We will set some follow-up appointments with you as well, to make sure that your wound healing is progressing on schedule. If getting to the office is challenging for you, some of these follow-ups may be conducted remotely via a telemedicine appointment. Feel free to ask us about this if you are interested.
Advanced Healing Techniques
One way we help our patients recover more quickly from their wounds is by incorporating MLS laser therapy into the treatment plan.
With this type of advanced therapy, laser energy is used to trigger and accelerate various natural biological processes involved with tissue regeneration and anti-inflammation. This includes increased blood flow and oxygen to the treatment site, increased cellular metabolism, and reduced scar tissue formation.
MLS laser therapy is most commonly associated with treatment for painful soft tissue inflammation, such as from plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis. But it’s also extremely effective for diabetic wounds, too.
The laser treatment stimulates the natural development of fibroblasts, which are cells that are responsible for synthesizing collagen, which in turn is necessary to repair skin tissue. As a result, we may be able to help your wound shrink and close much faster when MLS laser therapy is added to your wound care plan.
Don’t Wait Another Day
Each day—each moment—you delay seeing us about your foot wound will only keep the door to infection open longer. We’re really not kidding around when we say that the decision to come in right away could be the difference between making a complete recovery vs. losing your foot entirely.
Foot wounds need urgent care—and you’ll want to receive that care from professionals with the extensive training and state-of-the-art technology to serve you best. You’ll find both at Capital Podiatry Associates.
To schedule an appointment with us at our office in Alexandria, please call (703) 560-3773 today.