Annapolis Foot & Ankle Center Podiatrists Offer Advice for Managing Foot Wounds

At Our Chesapeake Amputation Prevention Center, we’re dedicated to helping our patients avoid the life-altering experience of amputation through education and proactive care. Here’s what you should know about common foot wound causes, effective home and professional treatment, and how to do your best to prevent them. 

Typical Foot Wound Causes Doctor examining foot wound for cause and treatment

Foot wounds can develop from a minor injury that becomes an ulcer. Ulcers are wounds that keep returning or don’t heal. Injuries include:

  • Scrapes
  • Cuts
  • Punctures
  • Foot trauma
  • Bacterial infections
  • Toes shaped differently than usual
  • Shoe friction and irritation
  • An atypical walk that puts too much pressure on a toe or part of the foot

Conditions That Interfere With Ulcer Healing

Some people are fortunate enough that if they develop a foot wound, it heals on its own in very little time. However, certain health conditions make this more complicated. For example, diabetes is the leading cause of lower extremity and foot amputations in the United States, with more than 82,000 amputations per year performed on people with this disease. Other conditions that halt the healing process include: 

  • Obesity
  • Poor circulation
  • Heart and kidney 
  • Hypertension
  • Lymphedema
  • Tumors
  • Infections
  • Using alcohol or tobacco
  • Compromised immune system

Consequences of Ignoring Foot Wounds

When foot wounds don’t heal properly, there can be severe consequences for delaying treatment including, but not limited to:

  • Ulcers
  • Infections
  • Gangrene
  • Hospitalizations
  • Amputations
  • Decreased mobility
  • Sepsis

Although rare, some people who develop diabetic foot ulcers have higher mortality rates

What a Foot Ulcer Looks Like

They vary in appearance but often have the following initial characteristics:

  • Discoloration
    • Yellow
    • Pink
    • Red
    • Grey
  • Dry, scaly, or cracked skin
  • Redness
  • Rashes
  • Swelling
  • Warm to the touch
  • Itching, burning or aching

As the ulcer grows worse, our patients frequently notice:

  • The discoloration turns black, indicating gangrene has set in.
  • Foot calluses develop. 
  • A ring around the center of the wound that feels harder than the surrounding skin.
  • Wound drainage or blood seeping into socks and shoes. 
  • An unpleasant odor.

Interestingly, pain isn’t a common symptom of foot and ankle ulcers, because many people who develop them also suffer from neuropathy (nerve damage) and have reduced sensation in their feet. So it’s important to remember that just because a foot wound isn’t causing pain it’s something to ignore. Our office has same-day emergency appointments available if you want to alleviate any concerns and get treatment right away.

Where Ulcers Might Develop

There are numerous places where you might find an ulcer on your lower body. The most common locations are:

  • Inside the leg just above the ankle
  • On parts of the feet and toes most sensitive to weight
  • Heels and tips of the toes
  • Between the toes, where they rub together
  • On bony parts of the feet that rub against your socks or shoes
  • On the nail bed, possibly near an area where there was a previous issue

7 Tips for Ulcer Prevention

At Annapolis Foot & Ankle Center, we advise all patients, especially those with particular health issues, to take the following steps to prevent foot ulcers from occurring

  1. Manage your health conditions. By following the recommended medication, insulin, and dietary guidelines established by your provider, people with diabetes and other illnesses can reduce their risk of developing foot and ankle ulcers. If you’re able to control your diabetes without taking insulin, you further decrease the potential for foot problems. If you have high blood pressure or cholesterol, recognize that these conditions contribute to poor circulation, which undermines healing, so following a proactive care plan is critical. 
  2. Examine your feet daily. A small injury can become dangerous in a matter of hours or a couple of days, so inspect their feet every day for signs of trouble, especially if they have one of the above diseases. Pay special attention to the area between the toes when washing, drying, and checking the feet. Also, apply lotion daily to prevent cracks and irritation—just avoid putting a lot of it between your toes. 
  3. Hydrate and exercise. Drink plenty of water every day to help boost circulation throughout the body. Frequent movement increases blood flow, too, and helps you maintain better health overall.
  4. Trim toenails correctly. This means straight across, and not too short.
  5. Avoid nicotine and alcohol. These substances make it more difficult for your body to heal from injuries.
  6. Select footwear carefully. You should be able to wiggle your toes easily inside your shoes, and there shouldn’t be any pressure points, pinching, or rubbing. People with diabetes might look for footwear designed especially for their needs. Custom orthotics may further reduce the risk of issues. And while many people enjoy going barefoot, it’s better to wear shoes or hard-soled slippers for stability and protection to avoid injury. 
  7. Maintain regular medical visits. Anyone with a medical condition that places them at high risk for foot and ankle ulcers should routinely see their podiatrists and other specialists to monitor for concerns.

Foot Wound Home Treatment Options for Good Foot Health

If you notice you have a foot or ankle injury, complete the following steps to begin addressing the problem:

  • Wash the foot with mild soap and water and clean the wound with saline solution.
  • Thoroughly dry the foot, including the area between the toes.
  • Apply an antiseptic recommended by your podiatrist (never peroxide or alcohol).
  • Wrap with a bandage and change dressings regularly.
  • Keep the foot elevated.

If the injury won’t stop bleeding, looks infected, was caused by a human or animal bite, is deep, or isn’t healing, immediately make an appointment with our center. 

Professional Foot Wound Treatment at Annapolis Foot & Ankle Center

Our Chesapeake Amputation Prevention Center is staffed by foot wound care medical professionals who’ll create customized treatment plans tailored to your needs. After a thorough exam and diagnosis, we’ll offer various interventions such as:

  • Topical creams
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-clotting medications
  • Compression
  • Draining
  • Orthotics
  • Special footgear
  • Prosthetics
  • Using crutches, a scooter, or a wheelchair to reduce weight on the area
  • Amniotic tissue grafts
  • Dressings
    • Moist
    • Alginate
    • Collagen wound
    • Antimicrobial
    • Composite
  • Debridement
  • Regenerative therapies
  • Synthetic skin substitutes
Eric Harmelin, DPM
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Experienced Amputation Prevention Specialist and Podiatrist in Annapolis, Stevensville, and Glen Burnie, MD.