Ischemic ulcers - self-care
Ischemic ulcers (wounds) can occur when there is poor blood flow in your legs. Ischemic means reduced blood flow to an area of the body. 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; Peripheral artery disease - ulcer; Peripheral vascular disease - ulcer; PVD - ulcer; PAD - ulcer
Clogged arteries (atherosclerosis) are the most common cause of ischemic ulcers.
Conditions in which the skin becomes inflamed and fluid builds up in the legs can also cause ischemic ulcers.
People with poor blood flow often 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, poor blood flow makes it harder for the sore to heal.
Symptoms of ischemic ulcers include:
Who is At Risk?
Anyone with poor circulation is at risk for ischemic wounds. Other conditions that can cause ischemic wounds include:
To treat an ischemic ulcer, blood flow to your legs needs to be restored. You may need to take medicine. In some cases, you may need surgery.
Your health care provider will show you how to care for your wound. The basic instructions are:
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.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your provider if there are any signs of infection, such as:
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Leong M, Murphy KD, Phillips LG. Wound healing. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 6.
Smith SF, Duell DJ, Martin BC, Gonzalez L, Aebersold M. Wound care and dressings. In: Smith SF, Duell DJ, Martin BC, Gonzalez L, Aebersold M, eds. Clinical Nursing Skills: Basic to Advanced Skills. 9th ed. New York, NY: Pearson; 2016:chap 25.
Review Date: 4/5/2018
Reviewed By: Michael Sobel, MD, Professor of Vascular Surgery, University of Washington, Seattle. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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