Wounds and sores are a common health problem but they can get serious if they do not heal over a long period of time. Arterial and venous ulcers are the open sores that often affect the lower extremities, namely the feet and legs. These ulcers usually develop when the arteries or veins get damaged and are unable to carry out their circulatory functions effectively. Even the smallest cuts and wounds can aggravate into chronic wounds which eventually become ulcerative. The condition can get serious if the wounds take months to heal or do not heal at all. Timely medical attention becomes necessary to diagnose and treat leg and foot ulcers before they do extensive damage. Let us know more about the treatment options that are available for leg and foot ulcers.
Arterial and Venous Ulcers: Understanding the difference
Leg and foot ulcers are characterized by severe pain and localized swelling. There are other symptoms which are typical to arterial and venous ulcers and form the basis of distinction between the two conditions.
Arterial ulcers are formed on the toes, heels, outer side of the ankle and feet. Other characteristic symptoms of arterial ulcers include yellow, red or black colored sores, tightness in the affected area and leg pain at night. The wound is usually deep but there is no bleeding. The affected area feels cold to touch because the blood circulation is minimal. Also, the legs get reddened on dangling and turn pale when they are elevated.
Venous ulcers generally occur on the inner area off the ankle and below the knee. The ulcer seldom causes pain or discomfort, unless it gets infected. In case of an infection, there can be pain, swelling, discharge and inflammation. The skin may get itchy and hard and there may be visible flaking in the affected area. Subsequently, brown or back stains may appear on the skin surface.
Treatment Options for Leg and Foot Ulcers
The key to treating leg and foot ulcers effectively lies in the identification of the underlying cause. Although proper care and antibiotic therapy may resolve ulcers but the diagnosis of the underlying cause is essential to get rid of the problem in the long run. Some of the common health issues that lead to head and foot ulcers include diabetes, chronic kidney disease, elevated blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, deep vein thrombosis, arterial disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment for leg and foot ulcers is primarily focused on increasing the blood circulation to the wounds and speeding up the recovery process.
Specific Treatments for Arterial Ulcers
The most important thing is to report a slow-healing wound to a specialist as soon as possible. It should be kept clean and dry and also be bandaged to curb the infection and prevent the wound from getting worse. Basically, the treatment focuses on resolving the underlying causes in addition to administering antibiotic therapy to relieve the symptoms. However, pharmacological therapy may not always resolve the condition and surgical intervention may be needed. The doctor will recommend surgery to restore the blood flow to the affected area in case of severe complications. One of the widely used invasive techniques to treat such wounds is balloon angioplasty. The technique uses a balloon which is inflated to open the affected artery and restore the blood flow therein. The condition may get very serious if the wound becomes heavily infected or the blood flow cannot be restored. Amputation may be the only option for such patients. Besides adoption the relevant treatment option, it is important to make some lifestyle changes for addressing the underlying health concerns.
Specific Treatments for Venous Ulcers
Venous ulcers are an equally critical concern and these are also treated with measures to improve the blood flow to the affected area. Antibiotics are usually recommended as the first line of treatment for resolving the underlying cause, preventing infection and minimizing the risk of recurrence. However, antibiotics alone may not be the feasible treatment for venous ulcers. Compression treatment is another effective option for minimizing the edema or swelling in the legs and feet. Compression stockings and compression bandages are used to apply mild pressure in the affected areas so that the blood circulation is restored to normal. Further, painkillers may be prescribed to alleviate the pain and discomfort caused by the wound.
Being vigilant is the most vital aspect of treatment of leg and foot ulcers as the sooner these wounds are resolved, the better is the prognosis. The patient should not ignore them at any cost as timely detection and treatment can make all the difference.