Can Leg Ulcers Lead to Amputation?
Leg ulcers are serious. In fact, they can even lead to amputation.
The good news is that, while leg ulcers can lead to amputation of part of the leg, these stubborn sores rarely lead to the loss of a foot or leg. This is because advances in medicine help vein doctors treat even very large and severe leg sores before the ulcers lead to amputation.
Still, it is important for anyone who is at risk for leg ulcers to understand how wounds on his or her lower leg could lead to serious complications.
About Leg Ulcers and How They may Lead to Amputation
Leg ulcers are wounds that can sometimes develop on a person’s lower legs. About 1 to 2 percent of the population of the United States experience leg ulcers, according to Cleveland Clinic, although the incidence of leg ulcers is slightly higher in older adults.
In many cases, leg ulcers are the result of a circulatory problem, known as chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). In this condition, the veins of the circulatory system do a poor job of carrying toxins and cellular byproducts away in the bloodstream. Accumulation of the byproducts and toxins in the lower legs can break down the skin to create painful sores, known as leg ulcers or venous leg ulcers.
Certain conditions put some people are at higher risk for leg ulcers. About one-third of people with CVI, for example, will develop a leg ulcer before they reach the age of 40. Approximately 15 percent of people with diabetes will develop a foot ulcer during their lifetime.
Some of these conditions can even increase the risk that the leg ulcers might someday lead to amputation. One condition, known as lymphedema, may increase that risk.
Lymphedema develops as the result of a blockage in the lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system. The lymphatic system works somewhat like the circulatory system except that, instead of moving blood, the lymphatic system removes excess fluid from tissues, transports white blood cells and performs other functions in the body. In the lymphatic system, a lymph fluid flows through lymph vessels to reach lymph nodes throughout the body.
Lymphedema occurs when something blocks the lymph vessels and lymph nodes, which prevents the lymphatic system from removing excess fluids from the tissue. This allows fluids to build up in tissues to cause swelling. The excess fluid and swelling can break down the tissue of the nearby skin. Breakdown of very thin skin, like that on the ankles and lower legs, can quickly lead to an ulcer. Left untreated, the breakdown of other tissues in the lower leg could potentially lead to amputation.
Lymphedema can be primary or secondary, which means the symptoms may be the result of a problem in the lymphatic system itself or caused by something else. Mayo Clinic says that secondary lymphedema is far more common than primary lymphedema.
Secondary lymphedema causes include:
- Surgery to remove lymph nodes
- Injury to lymph nodes or lymph vessels that make up the lymphatic system
- Radiation treatment for cancer, which can cause inflammation and scarring of the lymph nodes and lymph vessels
- Infections, which can restrict the flow
For more information on leg ulcers, and on how leg ulcers can lead to amputation, If you have any questions about leg ulcers, contact us here at Vein911 Treatment Centers at 855-396-9911.
Treatment for leg ulcers can successfully prevent amputation in most cases.