Every 30 seconds, a limb is amputated due to a diabetic wound, but wound care specialists fight to prevent that and preserve the quality of life of the more than 30 million Americans living with diabetes.
“For a patient with diabetes, the leading cause for amputation is related to a wound, and once you had a wound, you are more likely to get another,” community liaison for Lawrence County Hospital Wound Healing Center Karen Bell said.
“One in four patients with diabetes will develop a wound, and every 30 seconds a limb is amputated. We want to prevent that. Our goal is to let our patients leave with all the limbs they came in with.”
Bell said patients with diabetes must be vigilant and check their feet for wounds daily, looking for cuts, tears and red streaks.
If a wound persists for too long, it is more likely to develop an infection and more likely to be amputated.
“Patients need to check and wash your feet every day,” she said, adding that most diabetic wounds are not painful because of lack of blood flow, dampening nerve endings. “We really want to try and prevent those wounds if we can.”
Wounds usually heal fairly quickly, but the same lack of blood flow that dampens nerve endings for diabetic patients also brings less oxygen to the wound site, slowing healing considerably.
“Normally, we heal quickly, but with all the other things diabetics have going on, healing can stall. That is where having an active dialogue with your primary care physician comes in,” Bell said. “Keeping your blood sugar in check, keeping a diabetic-friendly diet and checking your feet will significantly reduce the chances of getting a wound that leads to loss of limb.”
Bell said 85% of lower limb amputations are preceded by a foot wound, adding that it is important to avoid loss of even a portion of a toe because it leads to more complications and future amputations.
“If you have any type of wound that is not healing well, contact your doctor,” she said. “If you have a cut, tear or pressure injury that has not healed within 30 days, you need medical attention.”
Bell said wound care is essentials, noting that her center could not close down during the coronavirus lockdown in April, noting that increased virus rates create a strain on every sector of medicine.
“Wound care is an essential service. If patients can’t get care, they could be hospitalized or even die,” she said.
Bell said the reason she went into wound care was that it was one of the fields of medicine where you can see an outward, marked improvement.
“I have a real passion for educating people. The more you know, the more you can prevent things from happening. Would care is one of the areas that you can see a marked improvement of a patient. You can’t see a healed gut, but you can see a wound heal.
“You can really help people reclaim their quality of life. It is an area that I felt could make a real difference in.”