Mountain Vista Medical Center Offers Advice for Managaging Diabetic Wounds During November's American Diabetes Month

More than 30 million people – that’s nearly 1 out of every 10 Americans – has diabetes. At that scale, it’s a disease classified as an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Not only is diabetes the seventh-leading cause of death in the country, it’s also a disease that contributes to many serious health conditions. One common risk that diabetic individuals face is amputation as a result of chronic wounds that don’t heal as they should.

“A diabetic wound can be particularly difficult to treat because there are multiple variables that can hinder healing,” said Kenneth Anaeme, MD, Mountain Vista Medical Center’s Arizona Wound Center, one of the largest wound care programs in the state. “Circulatory issues are a major factor, but simply having elevated blood glucose levels can affect the body’s ability to efficiently produce the new cells necessary to heal properly.

In Arizona, the number of people at risk for experiencing diabetic wounds is high. In fact, the incidence of diabetes in the state is slightly higher than the nation overall: 12.5 percent of adults (695,000 people) have the disease. Of these cases, an estimated one-fourth of them don’t even know they have diabetes. Meanwhile, another 1.8 million people in Arizona have elevated blood glucose levels indicative of pre-diabetes.

The Arizona Wound Center at Mountain Vista Medical Center is using November’s American Diabetes Month and World Diabetes Day on November 14 to bring greater attention to diabetes-related wounds and proper wound care. With advanced wound care techniques and state-of-the-art technology, the Arizona Wound Center is equipped to care for everything from diabetic ulcers and infections to skin tears and lacerations.

The most common chronic wounds caused by diabetes are foot ulcers, which are open sores or wounds typically found on the bottom of the feet. Foot ulcers are responsible for more hospitalizations and amputations than any other complication of diabetes. Non-healing wounds can also manifest themselves as lower leg ulcers, venous stasis ulcers, arterial (ischemic) ulcers, bone infections, gangrene, skin tears and lacerations, radiation burns, and post-operative infections. A variety of factors can cause ulcers, including poor circulation, foot deformities, irritation such as friction or pressure, and trauma.

“Even with the best preventive care, we know that particularly in the advanced stages of diabetes, wounds may be unavoidable,” said Anaeme. “Our team of experts approaches each patient’s wound care from multiple angles, working to address the underlying cause of the problem, control infection, and improve overall health.”

Anaeme – along with the Wound Center’s team of general surgeons, trauma surgeons, plastic and vascular surgeons, infectious disease physicians, podiatrists, ostomy nurses, certified nurse practitioners, and certified wound specialists – shared some additional tips to help people with diabetes keep their feet and legs healthy and wound-free. Among their recommendations:

Wear proper footwear. Footwear should be comfortable, but tight enough so that the shoe doesn’t rub against the skin. Orthopedic shoes, which can be made to fit the size and shape of your feet, can also help.

Inspect your feet daily. People with diabetes typically have reduced sensitivity in their feet and may be less aware of pain. Keep an eye out for cuts, cracks, blisters, or scrapes that could be the start of a wound.

Keep your feet clean. Wash your feet with mild soap and moisturize them every day. It’s a great way to keep callouses in check, too.

Take care trimming nails and treating cuts, scrapes or blisters. Cut toenails straight across, and avoid cutting into the corners of the toes. Ingrown toenails often result in infection; left untreated, they could be the beginning of a serious medical problem.

Seek medical attention if a wound does not heal or show signs of infection. Addressing a wound right away is especially important for a person with diabetes. The Wound Care Center team has access to many resources and technologies that can potentially increase the chance of saving a limb.

In addition to tending to wounds and managing the risk for infection, Mountain Vista Medical Center utilizes the latest treatments and technologies to promote healing and help restore use of affected limbs. Comprehensive wound care services include transcutaneous oxygen monitoring, wound debridement, compression therapy, skin graft therapy, and other specialty wound services.

One of the latest technologies is hyperbaric oxygen therapy, a specialized treatment that allows patients to breathe pure oxygen inside a pressurized chamber. High concentrations of oxygen are delivered to the bloodstream, ranging from 10 to 20 times the normal amount. This pure oxygen can penetrate areas that oxygen-carrying red blood cells cannot reach. As a result, it helps revitalize tissues that receive poor blood flow and stimulates the growth of new blood vessels. Increased oxygen also enables more infection-fighting white blood cells to reach affected areas. The treatment, which often spans several weeks to effectively treat wounds, is painless; patients commonly watch TV or sleep during their treatments.

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