Approximately one percent of the population will experience a chronic leg ulcer in their life, which can cause pain, difficulty with mobility, and in extreme cases, social isolation. The majority of leg ulcers arise from venous disease, while a significant proportion can arise from arterial conditions and rheumatoid arthritis too. While it's possible to manage the majority of ulcers, some cases warrant the intervention of a vascular surgeon like Timothy Wagner. Whether you want to avoid reaching this point or you're recovering from a previous surgery, there are ways to prevent them arising again.
Exercise in good disease management
Good disease management is especially important for arterial ulcers, which are often worse when patients don't optimise their diabetes or hypertension management. Ways to manage your conditions include:
- Losing weight to reduce your blood pressure and lessen pressure on the ulcers
- Optimising your diet to avoid hyperglycemia, which causes bacteria to breed
- Exercising to promote better circulation
- Consulting your GP if your current blood pressure medication isn't bringing your blood pressure down
Put your feet up
While moving around is good for your circulation and can help promote weight loss, you do need to put your feet up from time to time. While you're stationary, raise your legs to stop blood from pooling in the veins. When you stop blood from pooling there, you reduce the high venous pressure that causes ulcers to form and worsen in the first place.
Poor circulation and chronic disease often leads to dry skin. When this skin starts to break and flake, you risk developing a wound that can turn into an ulcer. This is especially the case if you have diabetes-related peripheral neuropathy, which reduces the pain sensations that would usually alert you to a wound you need to dress. If you're suffering from dry skin, approach your GP or leg wound nurse and ask about moisturisers. Regularly moisturising keeps the skin in tact, reducing your chances of a wound.
Compression stockings and dressings
While dressings keep your ulcers clean and stop them from growing, compression stockings keep the pressure in your legs low as the ulcer heals. Once your ulcer does heal, you may need to continue with the compression to stop them from returning. In the absence of pressure stockings, you may need to use several layers of bandages as an alternative.
In worst-case scenarios, your vascular surgeon can perform a skin graft that addresses your ulcer. However, you should engage in consistent preventative efforts to stop them from returning and to enjoy a better quality of life.