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Diabetes and Non-Healing Wounds

October 31, 2019

Doctor checking up on their patient.Never underestimate a wound, even a minor one. A simple callus on your foot can be the tip of the iceberg that leads to a non-healing wound if you have diabetes.

“So many things are going on under the wound such as abnormal pressure from bones, impaired circulation, and nerve damage. It’s important to follow-up with your healthcare provider and receive wound care, if needed,” says Christine Streeter, Director of the Wound and Hyperbaric Center at Boone County Hospital (BCH).

Diabetes Month is November. During this month and throughout the year, it’s important to educate yourself for better health. Know your risks, when to seek medical attention and how to prevent injuries. Knowledge can save your limb and your life.

Diabetes mellitus is a systemic disease. Normally, glucose enters your cells to fuel your body and brain. But when you have diabetes, most or all glucose cannot enter your cells. Instead, it circulates through your bloodstream where it damages nerves, blood vessels and your immune system. Learn how this affects your body and your health.

Many of the complications of diabetes are related to the vascular system, like heart attacks, strokes and poor circulation to the lower legs and/or feet.  The vessels in your legs can become narrowed, leading to a two-fold problem: they can no longer supply nerves with optimal levels of oxygen and nutrients needed to transmit signals like pain; nor can they supply enough nutrients and oxygen to fight infection or heal wounds.

High blood sugar reduces the effectiveness of white blood cells sent to heal an injury or illness. It also suppresses inflammation, which is critical for healing. Inflammation alerts your immune system to fight infection and repair injury.

There’s no such thing as a minor wound—especially a minor foot wound—for a person with diabetes. “If you have neuropathy, check your feet often and look for any areas that don’t look normal,” Christine says. “If you see an area of concern, call your doctor.” 

Foot ulcers are a common complication of diabetes. Left untreated, foot ulcers can lead to infection, gangrene, amputation and even death. Seek treatment immediately if you have an open wound.

Always work with a multidisciplinary team when you have diabetes. At BCH, the teams in the Wound and Hyperbaric Center (W&HC), the Diabetes Center, and Foot and Ankle Surgery work together to provide a comprehensive approach. If you have a wound that is not healing, an appointment can be made with your primary care doctor or by calling the W&HC at 433-8740. A Nail Care Clinic is available four times a month through the Foot and Ankle Surgery Clinic. The Clinic provides nail and foot care screenings which include toe-nail trimming, callus removal, corn reduction and assessment of skin integrity; the cost is $35. An appointment can be scheduled by calling 433-8500. The BCH Diabetes Center is also available and provides diabetes education and more. In addition, a Diabetes Support Group is available the third Thursday of each month (excluding June, July, August and December). For inquiries regarding the Center, call 433-8624.  Additional information about these services and other BCH services can be found at

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