When it comes to wounds, Dr. Adam Pentel cites an old adage:
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Open skin sores and ulcers still may develop, but that’s where Pentel can help.
Pentel is the medical director of the Fremont Health Center for Wound Healing. Since it’s opening in 2010, the center has been responsible for healing more than 4,000 wounds.
“We have many success stories,” said Kathie Backlund, program director at the center.
Backlund also notes that November is Diabetes Awareness Month.
There are 30 million people in the United States who have diabetes and more than 2 million have a diabetic foot ulcer, Backlund said.
And an estimated 15 percent of people with a diabetic foot ulcer will have an amputation if it’s not treated properly.
Open skin sores and ulcers can occur in people with diabetes, mostly in the lower legs and feet.
Other causes for wounds include: trauma, post-surgical complications, vascular issues, pressure sores and burns, said Pentel, a doctor of osteopathy.
People with uncontrolled diabetes can lose sensation in their feet and legs and not realize a sore is there until it’s large.
That’s where the ounce of prevention comes into play.
Pentel urges people with diabetes to check their feet every day and make sure their blood sugars are well-controlled.
People, in general, should maintain overall good health.
“Exercise every day, eat healthy and don’t smoke,” Pentel said.
When a wound does occur, treating it involves a multi-disciplinary approach.
The wound center has infectious disease doctors, surgeons, podiatrists, certified wound nurses and a certified wound ostomy nurse.
“We first look for the reason they’ve gotten this ulceration,” Pentel said.
Next, it’s determined if dead tissue must be removed or there’s an underlying infection that can be treated with antibiotics. A blood flow study can be done to make sure there’s proper oxygenation.
Treatments include finding the appropriate dressing.
“If they have a lot of swelling in their legs, we have compression garments we can place there,” Pentel added. “If there’s a lot of swelling, their wounds aren’t going to heal until that’s addressed.”
Should patients meet certain requirements, they may be eligible for hyperbaric oxygen treatments. A treatment lasts about 1 ½ hours. Usually, there are 40 treatments. Most of the time these treatments are covered by insurance.
With this treatment, an individual enters a tube that is pressurized to increase the oxygenation to his or her entire body, especially the wounds.
This helps bring in nutrients so wounds will heal that otherwise wouldn’t.
The therapy can help diabetic ulcers of the lower extremities, bone infections, trauma injuries, compromised skin grafts or flaps, radiation injuries, frostbite and flesh-eating bacterial infections.
Pentel said the center averages a 97 percent healing rate. It has 95 percent patient satisfaction, Backlund added.
The doctor urges people not to assume they can care for wounds on their own and let them fester.
“If you get the right kind of care sooner, you have a much better chance of getting the wound healed quicker,” Pentel said. “The longer they wait, the longer it takes to heal.”
People who wait more than a month can decrease the healing rate by up to 70 percent. Wounds can get deeper, bigger and infected, he said.
Patients should discuss any concerns with their primary care doctor or they can refer themselves to the wound center.
“It’s easier to treat a small wound than to wait until it’s gotten bigger,” Backlund said, adding, “If you’re living with a chronic wound, take action and seek specialized care as soon as possible.”
Pentel noted something else:
“The body is a wonderful machine and if given the right treatments has a great opportunity to heal itself.”