Can Leg Ulcers Lead to Amputation?
The appearance of a small wound on your foot or leg may not seem like a big deal, but it could be if the wound doesn’t heal properly or if an underlying condition prevents the wound from healing. Wounds on the leg or foot that do not properly heal are called leg ulcers and if they aren’t properly treated they could result in the loss of limb.
Learning how to properly identify when a wound has turned into a leg ulcer and in need of medical treatment can help you reduce your risk of needing an amputation.
Taking a Closer Look at Leg Ulcers: What They Are, Symptoms, and Who is at Risk for Them
Usually, when a small break or tear occurs to the skin the body will start the natural healing process. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen for everyone.
For some people an underlying problem, such as diabetes, lymphedema and venous insufficiency, causes the body to be unable to properly heal the wound. Since the wound in unable to heal, it increases in size. The bigger the wound gets, the more likely it is to get infected or cause other problems.
A leg or foot wound that doesn’t naturally heal in two weeks, the approximately time it takes a wound to naturally heal, it is classified as an ulcer. Most ulcers will require medical treatment as they usually do not heal on their own. Failing to get medical treatment can cause the ulcer to get worse and increase the likelihood that an amputation may be needed.
Common symptoms of a leg ulcer include:
- • Wound on the inner ankle, leg, or foot that doesn’t heal in approximately two weeks
- • Wound that appears to be sunken in or have a very asymmetrical shape
- • Wound that produces foul smelling pus or seeps fluids
- • Wound that has inflamed skin around it
- • Pain that occurs in or around the wound when standing
Anyone is at risk of developing a leg ulcer. However, the following people have a higher risk of developing ulcers:
- • Women
- • Elderly
- • People with diabetes
- • People who have a history of varicose veins
- • Smokers
- • People with a history of arterial disease
- • People who are less active or bed-bound
How are Leg Ulcers Treated?
Treating a leg ulcer is a two part process. The first part of the process is to clean the wound and bandage it so it can start to heal. The second part of the treatment process is identifying and treating any underlying causes of the ulcer so it doesn’t happen again in the future.
Treatment for ulcers will vary on a case-by-case basis, but typically include the following:
- • Cleaning the wound with antibiotic ointment to treat any infections
- • Dressing the wound
- • Compression treatment – wearing compression stockings or compression bandages
- • Medications – antibiotics and pain-relieving medications
- • Supplements – some supplements help speed up the healing process
- • Skin graft – surgical procedure used when a wound fails to heal properly
- • Hyperbaric oxygen treatment for treatment-resistant ulcers
- • Creation on a treatment plan for underlying health problems such as diabetes, venous insufficiency, and arterial disease
Have a Leg Ulcer? Seeking Treatment Reduces Your Risk of Amputation
Prompt treatment of leg ulcers can dramatically reduce your risk of amputation. If you notice that an ulcer is developing on your leg or foot, call Vein 911 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Chris Pittman.
Amputation is a last resort treatment option for Dr. Pittman. When creating treatment plans for patients with leg or foot ulcers, he will provide a number of viable limb-sparing treatment options. Some treatment options that may be recommended for leg and foot ulcers by Dr. Pittman include use of modern novel therapies, medications, and in extreme cases surgical technologies.
Dr. Pittman doesn’t just focus on treating ulcers, he also focuses on prevention. He will work to identify any underlying problems that may need to be treated to keep ulcers from coming back. He will also educate his patients on preventative measures they can take that will reduce their risk of developing future ulcers.
Call Vein 911 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pittman.