Why should I watch how long a wound takes to heal if I have diabetes?

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Dr. Warren L. Thau, MD
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism
You should watch how long a wound takes to heal if you have diabetes because if you have vascular damage from diabetes, the vessels of the circulatory system -- from the heart to the tiny capillaries in your hands and feet -- can be impacted. Your risk for non-healing wounds is increased because the nutrients and oxygen in the blood can’t be delivered efficiently, and subsequent nerve damage means you might not feel pain as easily -- a dangerous complication that means wounds can go ignored for long periods of time.

The feet and legs, in particular, are at an increased risk for these types of wounds. Diabetic foot ulcers are one of the most common complications of diabetes, with about 25% of people with the disease getting at least one foot ulcer during their lifetime. Because of nerve damage, people with diabetes might not have feeling in their feet and don’t realize they have a blister. The blister can compound into a serious wound, and left untreated, it can lead to a lot of pain and suffering.

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People with diabetes are known to have slow wound healing, which opens the door for wound infections. People with diabetes are also known to have less resistance to infections, especially skin and soft tissue infections. So it is a great idea to keep an eye on any wound and take proper care of it. Foot infections are especially slow to heal, which may be aggravated by loss of sensation and a delay in even knowing you have a wound on the foot.
Podiatrist Jason Hanft, DPM, medical director of the podiatry residency program at South Miami Hospital, says that wound-healing time is vitally important in diabetes because “there is a good chance that if a wound doesn’t heal within four weeks, it never will.”

He also says wounds that don’t heal in six weeks have an 80 percent chance of becoming infected. “Foot infections, which can become serious enough to require amputation, are the number-one cause of hospital admission for people with diabetes.”

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.