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Treating Ulcers of the Foot

Healthcare provider examining woman’s foot.

Do your best to control health problems that may affect your feet, such as diabetes and kidney disease. Eat right and exercise. If you are given medicines, take them as directed. If you smoke, stop. Smoking reduces blood flow and slows healing. Limiting alcohol intake may also be helpful.

With your healthcare provider’s care, hot spots, small cracks, or sores can be treated before they get infected. If you already have an infection, medicines will probably be prescribed. Surgery may also be needed if the infection has spread.

Checking your feet

Follow these tips to check your feet:

  • Use a mirror to look at the bottom of your feet each day. By doing so, you can catch small skin changes before they turn into ulcers.

  • Call your healthcare provider if you notice hot spots, red streaks, swelling, or any cracks or sores.

  • Check the soles and insides of your shoes before putting them on. Remove any objects, such as pebbles.

Cleaning the ulcer

To assist healing, your healthcare provider may remove thickened skin from around the open ulcer. Medicated ointment or cream may be applied to prevent infection. Sometimes a special dressing is used to promote healing and help keep the wound from infection and aid in healing. It is important that the debridement is done by a trained healthcare provider. Debridement is the removal of callous around the ulcer with a sharp instrument. Avoid using knives, metal files, or other sharp instruments on your feet.

Reducing force

To reduce friction and pressure on hot spots, your healthcare provider may prescribe orthoses. These custom-made shoe inserts absorb or divert pressure, reduce friction, and reduce risk of injury resulting in open wounds to feet. Special shoes or temporary casts are often used when there is an active ulcer. The orthoses are best for prevention.

Using antibiotics

To control or prevent infection, your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics. Take them all, and take them as directed. If you stop using an antibiotic too soon, the infection may come back.

If surgery is needed

Surgery may be needed if infection enters deep tissues or bone. Often imaging tests will be done to identify or rule out infection in the skin and bone. If surgery is needed, your healthcare provider cleans away the infection while removing as little tissue or bone as possible. You may also be given antibiotics to fight the infection. In some cases, surgery may be performed to correct deformities that are the underlying cause of the ulcer.

To learn more

For more information, go to the Pressure Ulcer/Injury Resource mobile app.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 8/1/2018
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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