Ankle Ulcers

Introducing ankle ulcers

An ulcer is a term that describes a lesion or an open wound or sore. An ulcer does not heal fast. It does so slowly. Ulcers arise from the breakdown of skin tissue. In many cases, it is painful. There are three major kinds of ulcers:

  • venous stasis
  • diabetic (neurotrophic)
  • arterial

The most common ulcer that affects the lower part of the human body is known as venous stasis ulcer. The ankle is the most affected. A study by the Cleveland Clinic shows that 80 to 90 percent of the lower leg ulcers are actually venous stasis ulcers.

The causes of ankle ulcers

Ulcers that affect the ankle – venous stasis ulcers, are mostly caused by venous hypertension or chronic venous insufficiency. In this condition, the blood fails to flow smoothly back to the heart. This results in pressure buildup in the veins. The pressure, in turn, causes skin ulceration. Venous stasis ulcers will form inside the legs, just above the ankle.

We do not know the exact mechanism by which this condition causes ankle ulcer. Most experts in the medical field are of the opinion that the ulcer arises as a result of a reduction in blood flow to the capillaries of the legs. This results in an increase in white blood cell count. The buildup of leukocytes impedes oxygen supply to the tissues. The resultant effect is damage and ulcer to the foot. Another theory has been postulated. It is believed that venous hypertension causes leakage of cells from other regions of the body into the skin. These cells then influence cellular growth. With this, it becomes difficult to repair damaged tissues.

Ankle ulcers
Photo Credit: Healthline

Risk factors for ankle ulcers

Factors that increases the risk of venous stasis ulcers include:

  • history of leg swelling
  • Blood clotting
  • Varicose veins
  • Inflammation and inflammatory diseases

If ulcer runs in your family, maybe one or two members of your family have had it, then there is a possibility of you also having it. The occurrence of ankle ulcer is also boosted by smoking. Smoking of tobacco products impedes the flow of blood through the general circulation.

Symptoms of ankle ulcers

One major characteristic of ankle ulcers is that they do not cause pain. However, the patient may feel a slight itch or a burning sensation. They are red in color, with a yellow-colored skin over them. If the ulcer is infected, then you will see some green or yellow fluid leaking from it. The skin may also feel hot or warm when touched while the area surrounding the ulcer will be discolored and swollen. You may also feel some ache in the legs – with an accompanying shiny look and tight feeling.

Diagnosing ankle ulcers

Diagnosis begins by investigating the symptoms and asking questions about your medical history. It is imperative that you keep a record of all your symptoms as they will allow your physician to make the right diagnosis. If the ulcer has been there for some time, then a biopsy will be done to ensure that there is no cancer. CT Scans, MRIs, and radiography helps to verify the depth of the ulcer and to also check if the bone has been affected. The ulcer will also be examined to be sure whether it has been infected or not.

Treatments for ankle ulcers

The primary aim of treating an ulcer is to cure any possible infection, relieve you of the pain, and heal the wound that is characteristic of the ulcer.

Compression therapy

Compression therapy is the first line treatment for venous stasis ankle ulcers. With compression therapy, the swelling is reduced while the healing process is facilitated. Compression also prevents a repeat of the ulcer.

Compression therapy can be done with the use of wraps, compression stockings, or an elastic bandage. This is wrapped along the leg, up to the knee level. So, it is left for you to book an appointment with your doctor, and then determine what compression method works best for you.

Medications

Some medications can be used for treatment, if the compression doesn’t give the desired effect. Medications that may be used include aspirin and pentoxifylline. Diuretics may also be administered for a short period of time if the swelling is significant.

Ensure that you take the prescribed medications.

Wound care

Ulcers usually have a trademark wound. In fact, ulcers generally are identified by the wound. Dressings that may be used for the wounds include skin substitute dressings, collagen, antimicrobial, and composite dressings. An appointment with your doctor will allow you to learn the advantages of each type of dressing, and which will be most suitable for you. You may be referred to a clinic that specializes in wound treatment. Ensure that the ulcer area remains clean at all times, and change the dressing as at when due. This will boost the healing process.

Drinking a lot of fluids also help. Make sure that your diet is healthy, and get a lot of rest and exercise. Good health speeds up the healing process.

Preventing ankle ulcers

One way of preventing the development of ankle ulcers is by raising the legs above the heart level for half an hour, many times during the day. Limit the duration of time spent sitting or standing. This will minimize the pressure and the swelling that triggers the venous stasis ulcer. It will also enhance the circulation of blood.

If it is possible, you can elevate your legs while on the bed at night. Cut down on your salt intake, and monitor your blood pressure at regular intervals for any changes. Weight loss can ease some of the pressure felt on the legs. Book an appointment you’re your doctor to be sure if there is any need for weight loss.

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