Wound Basics 101: What You Need to Know

diabetic wound care tips

Getting cuts and scrapes are a part of everyday life. Just about all of us have come across the business end of something like a razor, knife or even a strip of sidewalk during a fall and have lived to tell the tale, but what happens when you don’t tend to the wound?

In many cases, people heal from these brushes with unpleasant traumas with little repercussion, but leaving a wound to its own devices is generally not a good idea. In fact, Fox shared a story in the summer of 2018 about a woman who cut herself shaving and ended up losing her leg after she ignored the wound and an infection set in that destroyed the tissues. While this is certainly a more extreme case of neglectful wound care, it should serve as a reminder that proper care is essential, no matter the size of the wound.

What kinds of wounds to the feet, ankles and legs should I be worried about?

Though the word “wound” may leave you with images of gaping, gory holes in the body, the reality is that the term applies to a number of different types of injuries (including heel fissures). Other types of wounds include:

  • Abrasions, which occur when skin rubs or scrapes against a hard or rough surface.
  • Avulsions, which consist of a partial or complete tearing away of skin, tissue and toenails. Avulsions typically occur from serious trauma—such as a body-crushing accident or gunshots—and bleed heavily and rapidly.
  • Incisions, in which a sharp object creates a cut that tends to bleed quickly and quite a bit. They can even damage tendons, ligaments and muscles.
  • Lacerations, a deep cut or tear of the skin that produces rapid and extensive bleeding.
  • Punctures, a small hole caused by a pointy object. They usually require a tetanus booster to prevent infection.

The legs, feet and ankle are especially susceptible to wounds based on their proximity to the ground. This is especially true if you enjoy going barefoot—which we don’t recommend—and even when you try to keep your feet clean and neat with a pedicure.

In addition, patients who are diabetic need to be especially aware of any injury they may have sustained to their feet because of complications that arise with the condition, such as neuropathy and poor circulation.

How can I tell if a wound I have is infected?

As soon as you have a wound, it must be cleaned of any debris, rinsed with warm water, patted dry and then covered. However, sometimes even with the best of care, an infection can still make its way into the body. Signs an infection has occurred include:

  • A yellowish or pimple-like crust appears on top
  • Pain and/or swelling do not improve after a few days
  • Pus or fluid is leaking from the wound, especially if it smells
  • The skin around the wound is red
  • The wound hasn’t healed over the course of several days

If any of these occur with a wound, contact your primary care physician or podiatrist for further treatment within 24 hours. However, you should take yourself straight to the emergency room if you experience any of the following along with the infection symptoms:

  • The swelling or redness starts spreading
  • You are experiencing a fever of over 100.4 degrees
  • Your pain is extreme

The moral of the story is this: Pay attention to where you’re placing your feet and when you get hurt. Odds are good you’ll come out of it unscathed, but there’s no point in taking a risk when it comes to caring for your feet, ankles and legs.

For more information about foot and ankle wounds or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, contact us today.