Understanding Foot Ulcers

A foot ulcer is an open wound on your foot that doesn’t heal. It usually begins as an area of irritation or redness on your skin. And as time goes on, the skin and tissue at the affected site gradually breaks down and develops into a wound. 

Ignoring a foot ulcer puts you at risk for infection. The result can damage your foot, increase the possibility of amputation of a toe, foot, or leg, and put your overall health in danger.

Your best defense against serious problems with foot ulcers is to maintain proper foot health under the direction of a professional podiatrist. Marshall L. Lukoff, DPM, FAAFS, of Foot Care Specialists, PC, in Quincy and Dedham, Massachusetts, is an expert at diagnosing and treating foot ulcers. In this blog, Dr. Lukoff explains how this condition develops and how it can be treated.

Risk factors

You’re most likely to develop a foot ulcer if you have diabetes. About 15% of people with diabetes experience foot ulcers. Having diabetes makes you more susceptible to developing foot ulcers, because diabetes increases the risk of suffering nerve damage in your feet, which can result in a loss of feeling.

The risk of developing serious foot ulcers makes diabetic foot care crucial. Between 14-24% of people with diabetes who get a foot ulcer require an amputation.  

Foot ulcers can also occur due to chronic medical conditions ― such as circulatory problems ― which can prevent blood and nutrients from reaching your feet where they can maintain healthy tissue. Other conditions that can interfere with healthy circulation, such as high blood pressure, smoking or a sedentary lifestyle, can also increase your risk of developing foot ulcers. 

Symptoms of foot ulcers

A foot ulcer typically occurs on the side or bottom of the foot, though it can develop elsewhere on the foot as well. A foot ulcer can appear as a shallow red hole that penetrates just the surface of the skin. It can also be a deep crater that goes through the full thickness of the skin, exposing your bones and tendons. A border of thick, callused skin often surrounds the crater. There may also be a foul odor if the wound is infected.

If you don’t have nerve damage, you will have pain from the ulcer. However, if you have neuropathy, you may not feel the wound, especially if it’s on the bottom of your foot. You may not realize that a wound exists until you see a liquid stain of blood or pus on your socks. Your foot may also appear red or swollen.

Treatment for foot ulcers

Early intervention can improve the outcome of treatment for a foot ulcer. Dr. Lukoff will determine the treatment appropriate for your foot ulcer based on the location and severity of your foot ulcer and your overall health. If your wound is infected, you may have to take antibiotics to kill the infection.

Typical care for foot ulcers involves debridement. With this procedure, Dr. Lukoff removes unhealthy and dead tissue from the wound to encourage your body’s natural healing mechanism. Then he applies a cream to promote healing and covers the wound with a dressing. 

Once your wound is treated, it will require regular assessments and dressing changes. Furthermore, you may have to take pressure off of your foot to allow the wound to heal. This may require that you wear a cast or boot and avoid standing and walking.

For more severe foot ulcers, Dr. Lukoff may recommend skin grafts or skin substitutes. To promote healing, you may benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which involves breathing almost pure oxygen in a specially equipped room. 

Preventing foot ulcers

Visiting Dr. Lukoff for regular foot checkups can help keep your feet healthy and prevent the development of foot ulcers. It will also allow for early detection so treatment can begin as soon as possible. Between office visits, take the following precautions to help prevent developing foot ulcers: 

  • Examine each entire foot daily, including the soles of your feet and between your toes. 
  • Keep your feet clean and moisturized to prevent germs from entering cracked, dry feet.
  • Manage diabetes, blood pressure, and other chronic conditions associated with foot ulcers. 
  • Avoid walking barefoot or wearing sandals to reduce your risk of stepping on an object that could result in a cut or scrape.
  • Wear properly fitting footwear and soft, absorbent socks to avoid blisters and irritation. 
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet.

Don’t ignore the signs of a foot ulcer. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Foot Care Specialists, PC today.

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