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When You Have Diabetes, Even Small Cuts are a Big Deal

Brandt R Gibson, DPM
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Podiatrist, Neuropathy Doctor, Father of 11 and Founder of Mountain West Foot & Ankle Institute
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Before you had diabetes, a small nick—regardless of its location—was probably something you never even thought about. Now that you have this illness, however, even a tony scrape is a potentially dangerous health condition. Here’s why you need to be so cautious:

How Diabetes Affects Your Body’s Healing Process
Patients with chronic diabetes tend to have high blood sugar levels. This build up of sugar in the blood can effect and delay your body’s ability to heal even the smallest of wounds. That’s why even a small scratch can be a big problem: if any type of dirt or germ makes its way into this tiny opening, your body’s natural defenses may fail to fight off infection. The result could be a problem that your body can’t fight off on its own.  Even a small red mark in the middle of your foot is cause for concern when you have diabetes!

Other symptoms of your diabetes can further complicate the problem. Diabetes can cause the arteries in your feet to constrict, thickening your blood and thus restricting blood flow to the area. So now you have a potentially infected cut, a constrained immune system and a short supply of fresh, healthy blood. This trifecta can cause even the smallest of scratches to develop into an ulcer—a wound that remains open and refuses to heal, potentially threatening your entire limb!

Because of the potential domino effect from a diabetic foot scratch, any break in your skin’s surface should receive immediate attention. As soon as you see a cut, apply some antibiotic ointment to the area and cover it with a sterile wound patch or gauze. Keep the area clean, and change dressing daily until you’ve healed. If the scratch doesn’t clear up within a few days, make an appointment with your podiatrist right away.

Catching Problems Quickly
While you need to take a scratch seriously when you have diabetes, it certainly isn’t a medical emergency—if you catch the problem on time. Unfortunately, diabetes can play one more game with your foot health: many diabetics experience reduced sensation in their feet. This lack of feeling can leave diabetics unaware that they’ve even sustained a foot injury. That’s why, in addition to quickly treating any cuts on your feet, you have to perform daily foot exams to make sure you catch any problems right away. With careful inspections and quick first-aid, diabetics can make sure that small scratches don’t turn into big problems for their feet!

 

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