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Why You Should Never Neglect a Leg Ulcer

Why You Should Never Neglect a Leg Ulcer

Leg ulcers are incredibly dangerous because they won’t heal without medical care. Instead of healing, they keep getting larger, putting you at risk for serious complications.

As a specialist in vascular medicine, Kishore K. Arcot, MD, FACC, at Memphis Vein Center protects your health, providing the advanced treatments needed to repair the underlying condition and promote wound healing.

Why leg ulcers develop

A leg ulcer is an open wound that develops when a disease affects circulation in the blood vessels serving your legs. The top three causes include:

Peripheral artery disease 

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) develops when cholesterol blocks a leg artery. As the plaque enlarges and limits blood flow, tissues die because they don’t get enough oxygen. That’s when an arterial leg ulcer develops.

Chronic venous insufficiency

When the valves inside your leg veins stop working, blood flows back down the leg and pools in the vein. This condition, chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), also raises blood pressure in the lower leg vein. 

High venous pressure forces fluids out of the vein, where they break down your skin and cause a venous leg ulcer.

Diabetes

High blood sugar damages the small blood vessels in your feet and legs. As a result, a tiny sore can quickly turn into an ulcer because it lacks the blood supply and oxygen needed to heal. Diabetic ulcers often occur on your feet, but they may also appear on your lower legs.

Signs warning you’re at risk for a leg ulcer

Blood vessel damage from diabetes doesn’t cause signs until an ulcer appears. But if you’re diabetic, you can watch your feet for small cuts and bruises and seek professional care to prevent a larger wound.

PAD and CVI often cause symptoms before a leg ulcer develops. Varicose veins signal the presence of CVI, while leg pain when walking (that improves with rest) is one of the earliest signs of PAD.

Both PAD and CVI may cause:

Seeking treatment at the first sign of vascular disease gives you the chance to prevent leg ulcers.

Complications caused by leg ulcers

No matter the cause, all leg ulcers pose two major health challenges: They don’t heal on their own and they keep getting larger.

The skin around venous ulcers breaks down, creating a wound that’s shallow but continuously enlarges. Arterial and diabetic ulcers tend to infiltrate below the surface, creating a deep wound.

Healing a leg ulcer requires intensive wound care and treatment for the underlying disease. The longer you wait to seek treatment, the higher your risk of developing serious complications, including:

Skin and bone infections

A wound that won’t heal is an open door to bacteria, viruses, and other dangerous microorganisms. Arterial and diabetic ulcers are especially vulnerable to infections because the lack of blood means they can’t heal or fight off the invading pathogens.

Signs of an infection include:

Without prompt treatment, these infections may spread into your bloodstream and cause sepsis, a massive, bodywide response that can threaten your life.

Gangrene

When blood flow is significantly reduced or stopped, the tissues die and gangrene develops. Signs of gangrene include:

You need immediate treatment for gangrene. Surgical debridement to remove the dead and infected tissue and vascular procedures to restore blood flow may save your foot and lower leg. Unfortunately, amputation may be the only option when gangrene causes extensive tissue death.

Amputation

Amputation statistics are shocking and tell you all you need to know about why you should never neglect a foot ulcer:

Don’t wait to seek treatment for a foot or leg wound that won’t heal. Call us at Memphis Vein Center in Memphis, Tennessee, right away, or connect online to request an appointment for expert leg ulcer care.

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