Options for Treating Foot and Ankle Ulcers

There are several different ways that a foot or ankle ulcer might be treated, and which solutions are recommended depend on your specific situation. If the ulcer is caught early, the following options might be effective:

  • Topical treatments
  • Antibiotics
  • Medications to prevent clotting
  • Compression
  • Draining
  • Prosthetics
  • Orthotics
  • Special footgear
  • Use of a wheelchair or crutches to keep weight off of the foot
  • Elevation

Should less invasive treatment fail, it might be necessary to consider surgical options.

Causes of Foot and Ankle Ulcers

Although foot and ankle ulcers are fairly common, especially in people with diabetes, they can often be avoided by understanding what causes them.

Diabetic Neuropathy 

Individuals with diabetes may experience damage to the nerves in their feet and legs, leading to decreased sensation. This is called neuropathy and is the result of prolonged high blood sugar levels. People with neuropathy may not realize they have been injured, leading to untreated wounds, which can grow worse over time.

Poor Circulation

High blood sugar levels can also lead to decreased blood supply in the lower extremities. Decreased blood flow also makes it harder for the body to heal properly when it’s injured. 

Kidney Failure

Patients on dialysis are particularly at high risk.

Heart Problems

Both high blood pressure and heart disease endanger individuals to develop ulcers on their feet and ankles.

Foot Injuries

Minor scrapes, cuts, and areas where the skin has become irritated from rubbing may not heal properly and instead become ulcers, especially for people with diabetes. 

Preventing Foot and Ankle Ulcers

Prevention is really the best option to avoid needing to treat ulcers. Here are some lifestyle tips to help you manage foot and ankle health more effectively.

  • Avoid smoking. Smoking narrows blood vessels and can further decrease lower body circulation. 
  • Eat a low-cholesterol diet. Keeping your heart healthy is important to improve circulation throughout your body.
  • Manage your blood sugar. Controlling your sugar intake and utilizing diabetes medications as prescribed can reduce your chances of developing neuropathy so that you can detect injuries to your feet and ankles before they become severe.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise improves circulation and blood pressure, which are both risk factors for developing foot ulcers. If you are not used to exercising, it is important to discuss your plans for getting active with your doctor.
  • Inspect your feet daily. By checking your legs and feet every day for blisters, cuts, wounds, or redness, you ensure that any injuries you develop do not have the opportunity to become ulcers before you are aware of their existence. Also check for redness, unusual warmth, ingrown toenails, and calluses. It may be helpful to use a mirror or ask a family member to check areas you cannot see easily.
  • Wear appropriate foot gear. It’s important to avoid walking barefoot or in shoes that fail to meet your needs. We should all have shoes that:
    • Offer plenty of toe space
    • Have secure heels that won’t rub
    • Don’t squeeze the feet
    • Are free of a lot of seams that irritate feet
    • Offer good arch support

Special socks and custom orthotics may also be helpful.

Visit an Annapolis Podiatrist

If you have diabetes, see your podiatrist at least annually to ensure you’re taking the best possible care of your feet, as well as any time that you have concerns about the condition of your feet. The podiatrists at Annapolis Foot & Ankle Center can advise you about a wide range of foot and ankle conditions and prevent minor issues from becoming life-changing problems.

Eric Harmelin, DPM
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Experienced Amputation Prevention Specialist and Podiatrist in Annapolis, Stevensville, and Glen Burnie, MD.