What's the Connection Between Diabetes and Wound Healing?

November 05,2021 |
Doctor talking care of his patient's wound.

When someone gets a minor wound, the healing process is generally nothing to be concerned about. Unless there are visible signs of infection, your body is usually able to handle the healing with little to no intervention. This is not true for people living with diabetes. Wounds that don’t heal or don’t heal fast enough can become life-threatening. Therefore, it’s essential to undergo the proper treatment as soon as possible while simultaneously managing your diabetes to stabilize blood glucose levels. To help you better understand how to prevent complications, we’ll discuss the connection between diabetes and wound healing.

The Normal Stages of Wound Healing

Typically, regardless of if you have diabetes or not, wound healing progresses through four major stages. These stages include hemostasis, inflammation, proliferation, and remodeling.

  • Hemostasis– this is the initial wound healing stage that occurs immediately following an injury. It’s characterized by the process of initial clotting to help control bleeding. Diabetes tends to disrupt hemostasis, therefore elongating this first stage of wound healing.


  • Inflammation– inflammation occurs after the blood clot is formed. This is when your body sends signals to cells to protect the site of injury and jump start the healing process. This is the stage of healing that’s dangerous for people living with diabetes, as inflammation determines the overall healing time of a wound and whether it’s acute or chronic.


  • Proliferation – during this stage, your wound will gradually get smaller and become covered with new connective tissues. New growth factors are produced, and healing occurs rapidly, but there is still a risk to fall back into the inflammation stage if further damage is done or the wound is not treated properly.


  • Remodeling– finally, remodeling occurs. This is when your body increases collagen production to fully close the wound and promote the healing of scar tissue. Remodeling can take several months to occur, which is normal for those living with diabetes and without.

Due to the impact diabetes has on your body, these stages of wound healing are often interrupted, elongated, and don’t progress in a linear fashion. Diabetes may cause proliferation to revert to inflammation or it may elongate the inflammation stage far past healthy healing. To avoid problems, it’s essential that you take preventative measures when injured.

How Diabetes Affects Your Body

Due to the relationship between blood glucose and cellular function, diabetes affects every system in your body. Specifically, diabetes can severely slow the time it takes to heal a wound while simultaneously shortening the time it takes for a wound to progress into a more serious incident.

The Connection Between Wound Healing and Blood Glucose

High blood sugar levels cause a lot of distress for cellular function. As glucose accumulates in the blood stream, it causes cellular walls to stiffen, thus impairing the blood flow throughout your body. High blood sugar therefore limits the nutrients and oxygen in your blood from energizing your cells, diminishes the overall function of your immune system, and exponentially increases your body’s inflammation levels. All of these have a direct impact on your body’s ability to heal and fight infections, especially during the inflammation phase.

Wound Healing and Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is a result of long-term high blood sugar, which in turn has an impact on wound healing. Neuropathy is when nerves and blood vessels are damaged to the point of a loss of sensation, particularly in the hands and the feet. This can cause wounds to go unnoticed for long periods of time, which can increase the risk of necrosis and infection. Neuropathy is not curable, but you can prevent it from getting worse and causing further damage.

It’s not uncommon for people living with diabetes to have some degree of immune system deficiency. This is another impact of diabetes on your body’s cellular function—poor immune systems are intrinsically linked to slower healing times for infections, wounds, and illnesses. If you’re struggling with immune help, talk to your doctor about preventative measures and ways to boost your immune system throughout the year.

Complications of Poor Wound Healing

Poor wound healing has been associated with heart disease, kidney disease, and serious eye problems in people living with diabetes. It also drastically increases the risk for infection, which can progress to osteomyelitis—infection of muscles or bones. Wounds need to be taken care of in a timely manner as they can quickly become necrotic and even lead to gangrene. In serious cases, amputation may be required to stop the spread of infection. To avoid this, seeing your doctor at the first sign of any wound related problem is essential. While all of these are very serious complications, poor wound healing can also lead to uncontrolled infections. These are often caused by sepsis, which is an infection of the blood. Many of these complications can be life-threatening if ignored, which is why care and treatment needs to be prioritized.

If you notice any tingling, burning, loss of sensation, persistent pain, swelling, or signs of infection, see your doctor. Wounds that don’t begin to heal after a few days require medical assistance and if your symptoms worsen or extend longer than a week, see your doctor immediately.

How to Encourage Healthy Wound Healing with Diabetes

The best way to avoid serious complications is to take action at the first sign of an injury. People living with diabetes can encourage healthy wound healing, which will shorten exposure time and help combat unnecessary risks.

Proper Foot Care

Since the most common type of chronic wound in people with diabetes is foot ulcers, it’s important to include foot care to your daily routine. This can include wearing comfortable shoes, washing your feet daily and looking for any signs of wounds, patting your feet dry and applying a good moisturizer, keeping toenails trimmed, and seeing a podiatrist regularly.

Regular Self-Checks

Self-checks are the best way to catch any injuries that you may not have noticed. Check in between your fingers and your toes, the soles of your feet, your arms, legs, and hands daily. Do this while you’re applying lotion or moisturizer to help protect the skin barrier and avoid encountering unnecessary wounds caused by dry, irritated skin.

Meticulous Wound Care

Once injury occurs, the best way to encourage healthy wound healing is through meticulous wound care. This includes seeing a doctor for serious injuries and educating yourself on signs of infection. You’ll also need to learn how to properly clean and dress your wounds and understand which wound dressing is best for each type of wound. Avoid putting excess pressure on the injured extremity and never try to push through pain. Talk to your doctor to learn more about wound care and treatment.


If a wound has progressed and is not healing, your doctor may have to perform wound debridement. This is the process of removing dead tissue. If left intact, dead tissue can drastically increase bacteria and toxins that are present within the wound. While debridement can be uncomfortable, it’s essential for avoiding infection and improving wound healing.

Diabetes Management

Finally, one of the best ways to take preventative measures and improve wound healing is to properly manage your diabetes and stabilize your blood glucose levels. Make sure that you’re checking your blood sugar regularly throughout the day and administering insulin as needed. It’s also important to create a diabetes meal plan that’s filled with whole, nutritious fruits and vegetables. In conjunction with a healthy diet, exercise can increase circulation and stabilize your blood sugar levels long after you’ve put in the work. Consider joining a gym, hiring a personal trainer, or even just adding a daily walk to your after-dinner routine. Talk to your doctor about using a continuous glucose monitor to help you track your insulin levels throughout the day and recognize fluctuations caused by your eating habits and exercise levels. If you have any questions or concerns regarding diabetes management, don’t hesitate to reach out.

If you’re living with diabetes and develop a minor wound, keep a close eye on it and utilize at-home treatments. After a few days, if there is no improvement in the wound, see your doctor immediately. This can help you avoid infections, decay, and serious complications associated with slow wound healing. The best way to promote wound healing, especially with diabetic ulcers, is glucose control and proper diabetes management. Byram Healthcare has a range of products to help you monitor your blood glucose levels with ease. For help with clinical questions or concerns between your visits to your Healthcare providers, contact our diabetes educational support team.