An ulcer forms from a pooling of blood, a blockage of circulation, or nerve damage. This results in an open, painful sore that takes a long time to heal or may not heal at all. Ulcers are likely to reoccur.
Most leg ulcers develop along with varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, or trauma. Peripheral artery disease, or arterial ulcers, make up a smaller percentage of cases.
Neurotrophic ulcers, from nerve damage, affect diabetics who have high blood sugar levels.
These ulcers form most often at pressure points on the bottom of the feet. The ulcer may be discolored, pink, red, brown, or black, and is an open wound. The surrounding skin is often discolored and calloused.
Nerve damage to the legs or feet can cause symptoms such as a loss of feeling, changes to sweat glands, tingling, a burning or stinging feeling, and pain. These are predictive signs of a potential ulcer. Anyone with these symptoms should talk with a doctor and get checked.
People with diabetes should check their legs and feet frequently. Make sure there are no calluses, scrapes, or cuts. Wear good, closed footwear, never walk barefoot, and keep your legs and feet clean.
High blood sugar impairs proper circulation, especially to the legs and feet. The first step in prevention is working to keep sugar levels steady and under control through diet, exercise, care, and medicine if prescribed. Diabetics are at higher risk for nerve damage, peripheral vascular disease, and heart disease.
The Cleveland Clinic recommends reducing your risk for an ulcer, whether you have diabetes or not, by doing the following:
- Quitting smoking
- Managing blood pressure and cholesterol
- Limiting salt in your diet
- Managing blood sugar
- Exercising regularly, i.e. taking walks
- Losing weight
- Asking a doctor about preventing blood clots
South Valley Vascular can perform tests such as ultrasound, ankle/brachial, and measuring blood flow to assess ulcers caused by nerve damage.
Once there is an ulcer, good care can mean the difference between healing and stopping complications and a worsening issue.
With an ulcer, it’s even more important to wash the area properly every day. Mild soap and lukewarm water are best. You need to remove dead skin and any debris or anything which could lead to an infection. It’s important to gently and fully dry your legs and feet.
Examine your legs, feet, toes, and toenails each day. Check for redness, cuts, scrapes, calluses, or swelling. Check toenails and care for them to keep them safe and smooth.
Your doctor may recommend that you use a lanolin cream daily to keep skin from becoming dry and cracked.
More treatment steps for before, during, or after having a leg or foot ulcer include remaining well hydrated with healthy fluids and eating a healthy diet heavy in fruits and vegetables. Regular exercise is an excellent idea. It's important to wear safe, closed shoes. Compression clothing, such as socks or sleeves, if recommended by a doctor, may help.
If you have diabetes, you should see a podiatrist anyway. It’s more important if you have an ulcer or other factor.
The medical experts at South Valley Vascular in Visalia, Porterville, and Hanford, California, specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of diseases and conditions of the blood vessels. Our vascular surgeons will determine a treatment plan that provides the best benefits for your specific needs.