Healing Leg Wounds: Essential Podiatry Insights for Faster Recovery

Are you worried about the wounds on your legs that are taking a long time to heal? Maybe they’ve transformed into leg ulcers which are painful wounds that occur in your legs and last longer than 2 weeks. It can also produce pus and may turn into chronic ulcers that can cause severe infections and skin cancers. Learn about leg ulcers via FAQs in this article.

6 FAQs on leg ulcers

Here are the most searched FAQs on leg ulcers that you need to know:

  1. What are leg ulcers and how common are they in the US?

Ans. Leg ulcers are defined as open wounds that happen in your legs and last more than 2 weeks to heal despite treatment. These ulcers usually occur between the ankle and knee. Leg ulcers often produce ooze fluid or pus, which can grow eventually if you leave it untreated. If the sore on your leg doesn’t heal after 3 months of treatment, then you may develop a chronic condition.

Around 1% of American adults have leg ulcers and 4% of people over 65 have non-healing sores in their legs. It’s more common in older adults than in young adults.

  • What causes leg ulcers and increases your risk of leg ulcers?

Ans. Usually, poor vein circulation causes leg ulcers. Veins play an essential role in supplying deoxygenated blood from the body to the heart, and on to the lungs. It contains one-way valves to prevent blood from coming backwards and other muscle contractions help the blood to move upwards. The calf muscle acts as a pump by using muscular contraction with deep veins and chambers to push the blood back up through the veins.

This pumping action can be easily affected by a variety of problems, such as blockage in the deep veins, venous insufficiency, or venous disease which triggers a leg ulcer. It’s still not known how poor vein circulation triggers a leg ulcer.

One theory believes that white blood cells from the immune system may be trapped inside the tiny capillaries, where they attack and destroy the skin tissues. That’s why pus may be a by-product of high numbers of white blood cells.

Some of the conditions that cause leg ulcers include:

  • Chronic venous insufficiency: This occurs when faulty valves in leg veins allow blood to flow backward into the leg where it is collected. This causes high blood pressure in the leg veins which can burst tiny blood vessels causing inflammation, itching, and dry skin. Leg ulcers occur when the skin breaks open.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes causes high blood sugar levels in the body which leads to fat deposits inside blood vessels causing them to narrow and reduce blood flow. Lower blood flow can cause nerve damage or diabetic neuropathy. With these nerve problems, you may not feel a leg ulcer or know it’s there. Additionally, diabetes can slow down the wound-healing process.
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD): This condition occurs when plaque buildup happens in the arteries. The blood vessels in the leg become narrower leading to poor blood circulation. It can also decrease the wound-healing process. People with diabetes are at risk of developing PAD.
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure can cause a painful ulcer on the lower leg called a Martorell ulcer because it can narrow the capillaries on the skin which cuts the blood supply to the skin. The skin eventually dies and forms a leg ulcer.

Leg ulcers are more common in women than men. Other factors that increase your risk of leg ulcers are:

  • Obesity or extra weight during pregnancy.
  • Family history of vein problems.
  • Health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Hip replacement or knee replacement procedures.
  • Smoking.
  • Lack of physical activity.
  • Paralysis
  • Injuries and traumatic accidents.
  • Varicose veins, vasculitis (inflamed blood vessels), and venous blood clots.
  • What are the types of leg ulcers?

Ans. There are several types of leg ulcers depending on the cause. The most common type of leg ulcers is venous ulcers, which occur in 60% of cases of leg ulcers. Other types of leg ulcers include:

  • Arterial ulcers
  • Diabetes ulcers
  • Traumatic leg ulcers
  • Malignant leg ulcers
  • Vasculitis leg ulcers
  • What are the symptoms of leg ulcers?

Ans. Usually, a wound that doesn’t heal with treatment after two weeks is the first sign of a leg ulcer. The sore may be red, purple, brown, or yellow and often have a liquid discharge.

Other signs and symptoms of a leg ulcer include:

  • Dry, scaly, or itchy skin.
  • Hard bumps on the skin.
  • Leg pain especially after standing for a while or walking.
  • Swelling in the lower legs.
  • The surrounding skin feels inflamed.
  • Varicose veins in the leg.
  • What treatment options are available for leg ulcers?

Ans. Leg ulcers are difficult to treat, and wounds can persist for months and sometimes for years as well. Treatments can depend on your ulcer type and cause. Your healthcare provider will focus on wound healing, reducing swelling, and preventing the ulcer from recurring.

Treatment options include:

  • Compression therapy to stimulate blood flow to the legs.
  • Wound care options such as debridement (removal of dead skin tissue at provider’s office), topical antiseptics to prevent infection, and regular bandage changes.
  • Medication to open blood vessels, antibiotics to treat infections, and vasodilators to improve blood flow.
  • Elevate your leg above the heart for one hour a day.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides you with more oxygen in the blood for a speedy healing.
  • Sclerotherapy to treat varicose veins.
  • If a vein is damaged, then surgery is used to remove, replace, or bypass the damaged vein.
  • Skin grafts are used for wounds larger than 4 inches or ulcers that don’t heal with other treatments.
  • How to prevent leg ulcers?

Ans. Leg ulcers usually open up again after healing. However, you can take several steps to lower the risk of getting a leg ulcer or wound recurrence:

  • Keep your legs elevated (above the heart level) most of the time when you’re awake.
  • Maintain a healthy weight by staying physically active and eating a well-balanced diet.
  • Manage health conditions that may affect blood circulation (like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, etc.).
  • If you smoke, quit it, and avoid using other tobacco products as well. Talk with your healthcare provider to learn ways to stop smoking.
  • Use gentle cleaners and apply moisturizing lotion to prevent dry skin.
  • Wear compression stockings for an hour each day to improve blood flow in your legs and avoid significant swelling.

Leg ulcers are painful sores that are difficult to treat. Chronic leg ulcers need specialized wound care to prevent infection and aid your healing. You may need other treatments like medicines and procedures to improve blood flow to the leg. Even after they heal, there is still a chance for them to recur. So, follow above mentioned prevention steps to prevent leg ulcers from reoccurring.

If you need help with your leg ulcers, visit our podiatry clinic in Brooklyn for professional medical help. If you need help with your leg wound to prevent complications and get better faster, visit our podiatry clinic in Brooklyn for professional medical help. Doral Health & Wellness employs Podiatrists with extensive education and expertise. Trauma to the tendons, muscles, and bones of the foot is quite common. It’s not a good idea to put off seeing a Foot Doctor Brooklyn until you’re in a lot of pain. Our address is 1797 Pitkin Avenue, New York, NY 11212. To make an appointment, please call +1-347-384-5690 or send an email toinfo@doralhw.org.