Ischemic ulcers (wounds) can occur when there is poor blood flow in your legs. Poor blood flow causes cells to die and damages tissue. Most ischemic ulcers occur on the feet and legs. These types of wounds can be slow to heal.
Arterial ulcers - self-care; Arterial insufficiency ulcer self-care; Ischemic wounds - self-care
Clogged arteries (atherosclerosis) are the most common cause of ischemic ulcers.
Conditions where the skin becomes inflamed and fluid builds up in the legs can also cause ischemic ulcers.
Often people with poor blood flow also have nerve damage or foot ulcers from diabetes. Nerve damage makes it harder to feel an area in the shoe that rubs and causes a sore. Once a sore forms, lack of blood flow makes it harder for the sore to heal.
Symptoms of ischemic ulcers include:
Anyone with poor circulation is at risk for ischemic wounds. Other conditions that can cause ischemic wounds include:
To treat an ischemic ulcer, your doctor will try to restore blood flow to your legs. You may need to take medicine. In some cases, you may need surgery.
Your provider will show you how to care for your wound. There are different kinds of dressings you can use including gauze, gel, foam, film, or others. Ask which one is best for your wound.
Keep your dressing and the skin around it dry. Try not to get healthy tissue around your wound too wet from your dressings. This can soften the healthy tissue and cause more foot problems.
If you are at risk for ischemic ulcers, taking these steps may help prevent problems.
Certain lifestyle changes can help prevent ischemic ulcers. If you have a wound, taking these steps can improve blood flow and aid healing.
Call your doctor if you have any signs and symptoms of infection, such as:
Bonham PA, Flemister BG. Guideline for management of wounds in patients with lower-extremity arterial disease. Mount Laurel, NJ: Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society; 2008.
Hafner A, Sprecher E. Ulcers. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, et al, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2012: chap 105.
Hopf HW, Ueno C, Aslam R, Burnand K, Fife C, Grant L. et al. Guidelines for treatment of arterial insufficiency ulcers. Wound Rep Reg. 2006; 14(6): 693-710.
Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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