Treating injuries and skin damage
There may be times when you do injure yourself so you need to know what to look out for, what action to take and who to see. Be prepared - have a first aid kit in the house and at work, think about what you would do in certain situations and have a plan of action. Keep important telephone numbers to hand and know who to call and when.
Cuts and grazes
Small cuts and grazes can often be looked after by you at home. Clean the wound with warm water and use an antiseptic - either add a liquid antiseptic to the water or use an antiseptic cream directly on the wound. Put a dry sterile dressing over the cut or graze.
If you find a blister, don’t pop it as it could get infected. Instead, put a dry, sterile dressing over it and keep an eye on it. If it does burst then clean it as you would a cut and cover it with a dressing.
Burns and scalds
First of all use cold water to cool the area. Either put your foot in a bowl of cold water or soak a clean cloth to gently bathe the burn by squeezing cold water over it. Pat the area dry with a clean towel and cover it with a dressing.
If any small wound has not started to heal more than two days after an injury then you should see your podiatrist, nurse or doctor straightaway. If you have damage to your nerves or the blood supply to your feet then you shouldn’t wait, but instead see your doctor as soon as you can, however small the injury may be.
How will I know if I have an infection?
When you have a wound or injury the fact that you also have diabetes means that you may be more likely than other people to get an infection. An infection is also more likely if your diabetes isn’t well controlled.
There are a number of different signs of an infection, though you may not have all of these:
- Pain - though if your nerves are damaged you may not feel any pain or discomfort
- Change in skin colour - if your skin is white it will turn pink or red, if you have brown or black skin it will look darker in colour
- Swelling – the area of skin that is infected might look puffy
- Difficultly moving your foot because of pain or swelling - this will depend on where the infection is and may not be the case for you if you have nerve damage
- Heat – the place where the infection is may feel hot when you touch it
- A weeping wound – infection in a wound creates pus which is a green or yellow fluid
If you, or your partner or carer, sees or feels any of these things then you should make an appointment to see your podiatrist, nurse or doctor as soon as you can – that same day or the next day. Don’t wait – wounds and infections can be successfully treated and the earlier you start it, the more successful your treatment is likely to be.
Sometimes infection in a wound can spread further. If this happens you will have a high temperature and will probably feel unwell. If it looks like an infection has spread see your doctor straightaway or go to accident and emergency.
What do I do if a problem is more serious?
There are times when you should go to accident and emergency for treatment straight away, rather than looking after yourself at home. Go to accident and emergency if:
- you step on something sharp like a drawing pin or nail
- you have a more serious injury, for example a deep cut or burn
- part of your foot or leg has become dark in colour or turned black
- you develop an infection
- your foot or leg suddenly becomes painful and is pale in colour
It’s important when you arrive at accident and emergency to tell the staff that you have diabetes and that you need to be seen quickly. The sooner you start treatment the more likely it is that your wound will heal well.
First Aid Box Essentials
It’s a great idea to be prepared for any blisters, cuts, burns or grazes. Keep a first aid box to hand with all the things you need to deal with minor problems.
Things to include in your kit are:
- sterile dressings of different sizes
- tape and small bandages to hold dressings on with
- antiseptic cream
- a small pair of scissors