People living with diabetes represent a subset of individuals with special health needs due to the nature of the disease. Considering the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is a greater risk of affected individuals with diabetic foot ulcers having their ailment worsen at home due to restricted access to routine clinical follow-up and inadequate wound management. In this article, we will outline effective ways to maintain optimal wound care during the pandemic.
Diabetic Foot Ulcers: Causes and Symptoms
People living with diabetes are at a significant risk of developing diseases of the arteries and loss of sensation in their legs and feet. Foot ulcers are exacerbated by an inability of the body to maintain stable blood sugar levels. Elevated blood sugar associated with poorly managed diabetes causes damage to the arteries that supply blood to the limbs, resulting in tissue neuropathy. Diabetic foot ulcers are slow-healing chronic wounds that require close wound care to prevent further deterioration.
Foot ulcers in diabetic patients have several symptoms including pain, swelling, redness, and drainage from the ulceration that may cause a foul odor. Due to a loss of sensation in the feet, people with diabetic foot ulcers are often unaware of injuries sustained during routine daily activities. As a result, they may neglect their feet, which suffer repeated trauma. All these factors can culminate in the development of chronic non-healing wounds.
Managing Diabetic Foot Ulcers: Why Wound Care is Critical
Foot lesions account for most of the complications facing people living with diabetes. In the U.S., approximately 5% of people living with the disease develop ulcerations requiring close wound assessment, treatment, and follow-up care. Due to the pandemic, more people with diabetic foot ulcers are staying at home and neglecting their wounds. However, inadequate care for diabetic foot ulcers can culminate in limb loss from amputation.
Achieving optimal wound care for diabetic foot ulcers at home requires the cooperation of diabetics and healthcare professionals, and this can only work with a system that incorporates both patient education and therapeutic care. An effective wound care plan for diabetic foot ulcers should include the following:
- Continuous wound management; dressing, debridement, and infection control
- Management of risk factors through patient education
- Maintaining accessibility to wound care experts (telehealth services)
There is a wide range of advanced wound care dressings suited for use in managing foot ulcers in diabetics over various stages of wound healing. Examples include saline dressings that can be used daily to promote a moist wound environment and absorb exudate from the wound bed and dressings impregnated with antibiotics to prevent infection. Wound dressings can also facilitate autolytic debridement for the removal of dead tissue and debris. Wound management supplies can be prescribed and ordered remotely by healthcare providers on behalf of patients.
Mitigating Risk Factors via Patient Education
Risk factors that can worsen the condition of foot ulcerations in diabetics e.g., poor diet, smoking, hypertension, and weight gain, can be mitigated with continuous patient education. Wound care experts can discuss risk factors with their patients and encourage strict adherence to medications and dietary or lifestyle modifications.
Accessibility to Wound Care Teams
With an increased emphasis on social distancing and discouraging non-essential movement, persons with diabetic foot ulcers might be hesitant to keep up with their routine in-person hospital follow-up appointments. Healthcare providers can provide innovative alternatives to continuously monitor wound healing in their patients. The Wound Pros provides a telehealth platform to ensure people living with diabetic foot ulcers and other chronic, slow-healing wounds have 24-hour access to wound management consultations from the comfort of their homes.
Harnessing the Telehealth Option for Diabetic Foot Care
Worldwide, facility-based healthcare systems are facing an enormous strain due to the increased number of persons requiring in-patient care. With hospital staff being stretched to their limits, telehealthcare provides a viable lifeline for persons with chronic wounds who have difficulty accessing the same standard of care they received before the COVID-19 pandemic began.The Wound Pros bridges the gap between facility-based care and home management by the use of its telehealth platform to remotely connect patients to the health care staff that cater to their needs. Using telehealth tools, physicians can carry out remote wound assessment, monitor the healing process, offer expert advice, and provide clients instructions on how to properly apply the wound dressings remotely.