Leg Ulcers

What are they?

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An ulcer is a break in the continuation of the skin that won’t heal. Leg ulcers are quite common around the ankle and lower part of the leg. Wounds that have failed to heal usually turn into ulcers.

What can cause them?

There are several kinds of leg ulcers based on the cause. They can be broadly classified into:

  • Neoplastic ulcers: Those arising from skin cancers.
  • Non-neoplastic ulcers: These ones are further classified into those caused by specific organisms (specific ulcers), and non-specific ulcers.

Specific ulcers can be caused by conditions like tuberculosis and syphilis. They are called specific because by mere looking at the structure of the ulcer, the cause can be known.

Non-specific ulcers are caused by injuries; problems with the blood vessels of the legs; sickle cell disease, and diseases affecting the nerves like leprosy and diabetes. These ulcers have no specific structure.

How are they managed?

When you have an ulcer, it is important to see the doctor as soon as possible. They will have to ask you a number of relevant questions in order to determine the cause of the ulcer. They will then examine the ulcer and the entire leg thoroughly. Based on the findings, the doctor may have to send for some tests to confirm the diagnosis.

If the ulcer is from a specific known cause, treating the cause usually makes the ulcer heal. If however, no specific cause is found, the doctor tries to create an enabling environment for the ulcer to heal, or cover it using healthy skin from another site (a process called skin grafting).

Things you can do for yourself

Exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet can help keep your circulation working as well as possible.

Quitting smoking, as it can affect your body’s ability to heal and can cause problems with your blood vessels.

Losing weight if necessary.

Wearing protective foot wears when needed.