And unfortunately, even the smallest wounds can become much more serious problems if they go ignored or untreated for too long. The numbers are shocking and dire: roughly 100,000 Americans require amputations to their feet or legs each year, and a significant percentage of these events began with an infected ulcer that very likely could have been prevented or stopped.
If you or someone you love has developed a foot or leg wound—especially if diabetes or vascular issues are in the picture—it is absolutely critical that it gets treated as quickly as possible.
At Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists, our wound healing experts utilize their advanced training and state-of-the-art techniques to help you heal as quickly and safely as possible.
Why Wounds Are So Dangerous
Whenever a cut, scrape, lesion, or other sore develops anywhere on your body, bacteria and other germs have a much greater chance of getting in and causing secondary complications.
Your body’s natural tissue healing mechanisms kick into overdrive to close the opening and heal the damage as quickly as possible, while your immune system remains on patrol to neutralize any hostile microorganisms that try to get inside.
If you suffer from circulatory or nerve issues (as is often the case with diabetes), your body can’t heal itself as quickly, your immune system can’t put up as strong of a fight, and you may be less likely to even notice you have an injury in the first place.
It’s no surprise, then, that according to recent research, patients with diabetes have a lifetime risk of lower limb amputation 30 times higher than those without it. (To be clear, having diabetes isn’t mandatory, either: those who have vascular and/or nerve issues without diabetes are at similarly elevated risk.)
Wounds are typically classified in four stages of increasing severity:
- Stage 1: Reddening of the skin over a bone or pressure point.
- Stage 2: Cracking, peeling, or blistering in the surface layers of the skin.
- Stage 3: The lesion goes below the skin to the tissue underneath, often causing bleeding and drainage.
- Stage 4: The infection reaches through muscles and tendons and into the bone (osteomyelitis).
In order to significantly reduce your risk of serious long-term repercussions, it’s crucial to get your wound under control as soon as possible, before it has a chance to progress to the later stages.
Common Foot and Leg Ulcers
Lesions differ based on type and where they appear. Some of the wounds we treat include:
- Neurotrophic ulcers. If you have diabetes or nerve damage in your feet, you are at high risk of this type of ulcer. They often appear on your soles but can develop anywhere an injury is sustained. The sore may be a pinkish or brownish-black color, and the skin around it will often be dry and callused.
- Venous stasis ulcer. If you have trouble with your legs swelling, blood clots, or varicose veins, a venous stasis ulcer may appear on your lower leg—often near your inner ankle. The area may be red and warm, and you might notice drainage if it becomes infected.
- Arterial/ischemic ulcer. This type of wound usually appears on toes, heels, the outer ankle, or other places that experience pressure from walking or ill-fitting shoes. They often have a “punched out” look, with a round and deep shape and well-defined edges. They typically indicate a severe blood flow problem (so they rarely bleed), and they may be gray, black, yellow, or brown in color.
Advanced Wound Healing from Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists
When the stakes are high, “traditional” wound care methods alone might not quite cut it. Time is of the essence, and the faster your wound heals, the less likely you are to suffer a life-altering complication—and the sooner you can return to full activity.
At Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists, we can augment the conventional strategies like debridement, offloading, and antibiotic medications with advanced techniques, including the use of amniotic fluids and grafts.
As a matter of fact, the wound healing properties of amniotic membranes have been known for nearly a century, but recent medical advances have now made it possible to dehydrate and preserve the material, making it much more widely available as a treatment option. Amniotic material contains mesenchymal stem cells, growth factors, extracellular matrix molecules, and other natural biological materials which help to regulate tissue regeneration.
Wound grafts made from dehydrated amniotic membranes have been proven in the literature to significantly improve the rate of healing compared to standard wound care. They also have antibacterial properties and provide an effective barrier against further infections from the outside. And because amniotic tissue is “immunologically privileged,” there is almost no risk that grafted tissue will be rejected by the host.
By using these and other techniques, we are able to help our patients with non-healing wounds recover significantly faster and keep their risk of complications as low as possible.