Dana A. Jamison, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in wound care and sports medicine on staff at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. Her office can be reached at (602) 839-6040.
Question: I have diabetes and what started as a small cut on my foot keeps getting worse. What should I do?
Answer: The first thing anyone with diabetes should do if a simple wound continues to worsen is see their primary care physician along with a wound care physician as soon as possible. Getting a wound care physician involved early on provides the greatest chance of preventing any sort of significant surgical intervention, possible amputation or even death. Foot ulcers in diabetics should always be handled with extreme care and caution.
Monitoring sugar levels helps diabetics track and control their sugars. Because the body cannot focus on too many stressors at once, there often is a link between unexplained high sugar levels and a worsening wound. In such cases, the need to be evaluated by a wound care specialist is even greater.
Diabetic wounds can accompany a myriad of other health problems, such as diabetic neuropathy (loss of sensation in the extremities), vascular issues, nephropathy (kidney damage or disease), visual changes and more. Wound care centers that bring together physicians and clinicians from multiple specialties are often best equipped to manage the varied and complex needs of diabetics. The Wound Care Program at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix is one such facility that is supported by a multidisciplinary team of orthopedic, vascular, plastic and general surgeons, podiatrists (foot care specialists), primary care physicians and nurses trained in wound care. The facility also offers hyperbaric oxygen therapy as a component of wound care and management.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy entails having patients breathe oxygen at a very high pressure. For patients with adequate circulation, the treatment increases oxygen flow throughout the body and, ultimately, to the wound site to promote healing. Many amputations are prevented through the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Foot and leg ulcers are the most common types of diabetic wounds. However, diabetics must always be vigilant about wound care and management, including wounds related to surgical incision sites or even pressure ulcers and bed sores brought about by poor overall circulation and decreased mobility.
Diabetes can often be controlled through medication, proper nutrition, weight management and exercise. However, all diabetics should be examined regularly by a podiatrist to ensure foot ulcers and wounds don’t go undetected. Early treatment leads to the best possible outcomes when it comes to diabetic wounds.