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  5. All About Skin Ulcers & How You Can Prevent Them

Have you noticed open sores in your skin recently? Does it bleed, pain or produce pus? Skin ulcer could be the underlying reason. Skin ulcers are curable with medication and easy home remedies. But how do you identify them?

Scroll down to know what causes skin ulcers, its symptoms, and how you can correctly diagnose skin ulcers to treat them.

What Is A Skin Ulcer?

A skin ulcer is an open sore that appears like a round-shaped depression with rough patches. You may notice a deviation from your normal skin structure. Bleeding or inflammation in your skin can be present too. Skin ulcers are often caused by injuries that cannot heal due to improper blood circulation. [1] These ulcers can be seen in any part of your skin; however, they commonly form in your mouth, lips, legs, and feet.

Types Of Skin Ulcers

venous ulcer or varicose ulcer at the medial side of leg

1. Venous Skin Ulcers

  • Characterized by open sores occurring in the lower part of the leg.
  • Such ulcers are formed when your leg veins are deprived of proper blood circulation. [2]
  • A major number of leg ulcers fall under this category.
  • People with obesity, inactivity or pregnancy are prone to this type of ulcer.

2. Arterial Skin Ulcers

  • Arterial ulcers are also known as ischaemic ulcers.
  • They are formed when your arteries are unable to transport blood to your veins.
  • Such ulcers are commonly found in your lower leg, feet, toes, heels, etc. [3]
  • Arterial ulcers can cause extreme pain, especially when you are immobile.

3. Neuropathic Skin Ulcers

  • Neuropathic ulcers, also called diabetic foot ulcers, are predominant among people who are highly diabetic.
  • It occurs due to damaged nerves resulting in numbness in the feet. [4]
  • Such ulcers are found in your heels, bottom of your feet, etc.

decubitus ulcer pressure ulcers on skin

4. Decubitus Ulcers

  • Also known as pressure ulcers or bedsores, these happen if an area of your skin is exposed to prolonged pressure. [5]
  • This disturbs blood circulation and causes a break in your skin.
  • Such ulcers can be found in hips, elbows, ankles, heels, and other bony areas of your body.

5. Buruli Ulcer

  • This is caused by a bacteria (Mycobacterium ulcerans).
  • The infection can lead to ulcers in your arms and legs. [6]
  • Buruli ulcers need the immediate attention of a doctor, as they can cause serious damage like permanent disability, if not treated quickly.

6. Stasis Dermatitis

  • Usually develops on your legs, causing skin irritation and inflammation.
  • It occurs when your legs are deprived of proper blood circulation, resulting in fluid build up.
  • Stasis dermatitis is dominant among women who are over the age of 50.

6. Stasis Dermatitis

  • Usually develops on your legs, causing skin irritation and inflammation.
  • It occurs when your legs are deprived of proper blood circulation, resulting in fluid build up.
  • Stasis dermatitis is dominant among women who are over the age of 50.

7. Malignant Skin Ulcers

  • Such ulcers may be caused by skin cancer
  • They may even be caused by spread of cancer from other parts.
  • Breast cancer, head and neck cancer, etc. are likely to spread on your skin.

Stages Of Skin Ulcers

Skin ulcers undergo various changes over time. Recognizing the stage your skin ulcer is in, can help you to treat it better.

Stage 1:

You may notice redness in your skin and its underlying tissues.

Stage 2:

The redness becomes clearly visible. You may also experience swelling, blisters, and cracks around the affected areas of skin.

Stage 3:

In this stage, your skin becomes necrotic. This means your skin and the nearby tissue dies due to poor blood circulation to the affected areas. It spreads deep in your skin, making the fat under your skin visible.

Stage 4:

In the final stage, the necrosis becomes deeper; completely exposing the fat under your skin and muscles. The infected sores may result in muscle necrosis. In extreme cases, it may affect your bones, and even cause joint sepsis.

Symptoms Of Skin Ulcers

Skin ulcers begin with redness, swelling, and tenderness around your skin. Some ulcers may feel painful and have a buildup of fluids in the sores. These may also cause bleeding of the skin and in rare cases, you may have fever.

Other common symptoms include deviation from normal skin structure, discoloured skin, itchiness, pus, and skin irritation. There may also be a foul smell in the affected area.

What Causes Skin Ulcers?

Skin ulcers may be caused by:

1. Bacterial infection

2. Injury or trauma

3. Lack of proper blood circulation

4. Exerting constant pressure on any particular area of your skin for a prolonged period

5. Damage caused in nerves (neuropathy)

6. Diabetes

7. Lack of nutritional balance

8. Atherosclerosis (fat build up in your artery walls, limiting blood flow)

9. Skin-related cancers

How To Treat Skin Ulcers?

Treatment of skin ulcers primarily depends on the severity of your condition. You can treat skin ulcers at home or visit a doctor.

1. Dressing Your Wound

Covering your wound with a clean dressing can help it heal faster and avert further spread of the infection. You can check with your doctor to know what type of dressing would suit your wound. Moist and antibacterial dressings usually serve the purpose.

2. Taking Antibiotics

You can take antibiotics orally or apply it topically to the affected area under the guidance of your doctor. This may relieve your pain and prevent infection.

3. Pain Medication

Your doctor may suggest medicines to reduce painful ulcers. Once the ulcer starts to heal, the pain reduces itself. You can slowly see the difference.

4. Surgeries

The need for a surgery may arise only when your ulcers become large and fail to heal. Doctors may suggest skin grafting, a process where skin will be removed from one part of your body and moved to the affected area.

5. Home Remedies

A. Turmeric

This is a great wound healer by virtue of its antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. You can simply make a paste by adding equal quantities of water and turmeric powder, and apply it to the affected area.

B. Honey

This too heals wounds faster owing to its antimicrobial properties. Try using honey before you dress your wound. Add it to your dressing and apply it on your skin.

C.Saline Water

Salt water solution is commonly used for treating wounds. You can try it on your ulcers too. This will help keep your ulcer clean. However, check the percentage of salt in the solution as excess of it can further irritate the ulcer.

How Can You Prevent Skin Ulcers?

1. Avoid smoking. It can restrict free flow of blood, thereby slowing down the healing process. [7]

2. Protect your feet.

3. Exercise regularly to encourage free flow of blood within your body.

4. Eat a healthy diet and follow a healthy lifestyle.

5. Keep a check on your weight.

6. Keep your legs elevated whenever possible to improve blood circulation.

7. Use compression socks to prevent swelling.

8. Avoid sitting in one position for a long time.

Risks & Complications Of Skin Ulcers

If not treated at the right time, ulcers can lead to –

1. Cellulitis: This is a serious infection caused by bacteria. It is characterized by swelling and painful skin. It commonly occurs in the lower parts of legs.

2. Septicemia: This is a severe condition of blood poisoning from infection by bacteria. It can severely affect your organs.

3. Osteomyelitis: This infection of bones and joints is caused by bacteria or fungi. The infected part of the bone may swell up, and die due to lack of blood supply.

4. Gangrene: Bacterial infections or absence of required levels of blood within the body can result in death of your body tissues. It is known as gangrene.

When To See A Doctor?

Skin ulcers usually heal on their own, within a matter of weeks. However, acute problems can last for a longer period, even for a year or two. If your skin ulcer doesn’t heal even after a few weeks, consult a doctor immediately.

Also, if your skin ulcer is very painful, is bleeding, is inflammed, has a foul smell, and seems to be worsening, consult your doctor for early intervention immediately.

Wrapping Up

Skin ulcers can be painful, but usually heal within weeks. They can easily be treated with right medications and easy home remedies. However, if your conditions worsen, visit a doctor immediately. The right treatment can prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of your body. Maintaining good blood circulation through regular exercises and a balanced diet can help avoid symptoms.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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