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Understanding Foot Ulcers

You may have heard of stomach ulcers—painful sores that make it difficult to eat and sleep. Did you know you can get these sores on your feet and legs, too? Ulcers are wounds that don’t heal or keep coming back. When they affect your feet, you may not be able to walk around or do your normal daily activities.

How Serious Is This Sore on My Foot?

The simplest wound is stage 1 – a reddening of the skin over a bone or at a pressure point. The next grade indicates cracking, peeling, or blistering in the surface layers of the skin. A third-level sore goes below the skin to the tissue underneath, and often involves bleeding and drainage. At stage 4, it can reach through muscle and tendons into the bone, an infection called osteomyelitis. This is very serious.

How Did I Get It?

There are many risk factors for developing an open wound, including diabetes, poor circulation from a buildup of plaque or leaky valves, kidney problems, high blood pressure or cholesterol levels, and even genetics. If you are bed-ridden or use a wheelchair, you can get pressure sores, and infections and certain medications can also cause lesions to form. Smoking also causes blood vessel problems and can lead to these wounds.

What Does It Look Like?

Lesions differ based on type and where they appear. The most common is a venous stasis ulcer. If you have trouble with your legs swelling, or you have had blood clots or varicose veins, a sore may appear on your lower leg, often near your inner ankle. The area may be red, warm, and you may see drainage if it is infected.

If you have diabetes, or have nerve damage in your feet, you are more susceptible to a type called neurotrophic ulcers. These lesions most often appear on your sole, but can occur anywhere you sustain an injury. When complications of diabetes like poor circulation and neuropathy arise, minor injuries might not even be felt, and blood flow may not be sufficient to heal the injury quickly, making things worse. The sore may be a pinkish color, or brownish-black, and the skin around it will often be dry and callused.

The third type is an arterial or ischemic ulcer, and indicates you have blood flow problems or another underlying condition. This variety usually appears on your feet (heels, tips of toes, places where bones protrude or nails have cut into the skin). They usually don’t bleed and can be gray, black, yellow, or brown in color. They may be more painful than other types, and are worse at night.

What Do I Do for My Foot or Leg Ulcers?

The first thing is to come in and have Austin experts Dr. Craig H. Thomajan DPM, FACFAS and Dr. Shine John, DPM, FACFAS examine them. We can determine what is causing the sores, take care of your wounds, and show you how to prevent them from occurring again. Treatment will range from wound care, dressings, and antibiotics to anti-clotting meds, compression stockings, and protective foot wear.

You will need to take serious steps to address underlying conditions like diabetes and peripheral arterial disease, and manage cholesterol or blood pressure levels that are too high. Other steps that help prevent ulcers include quitting smoking, reducing sodium intake, exercising, and losing weight. It’s a tall order, but the payoff in pain-free feet and being able to perform normal activities is worth it!

For excellence in podiatric care, call (512) 328-8900 today and set up an appointment with Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists in Texas. Our goal is to get your feet healthy again! You can also schedule online.

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