What Causes Leg Ulcers?The short answer is, "poor circulation," but that's not the whole story. The reason why these ulcers occur in the lower legs and ankles is usually due to inactivity of the calf muscles, which in active individuals act as a pump for recirculating blood. Researchers believe that ulcers appear in areas where there is a build-up of white blood cells in narrow capillaries. The immune system then responds by destroying nearby skin tissue.
While age is a major leg ulcer risk factor, there are other factors as well that we have some control over. Some of these include:
- Smoking: Smoking constricts blood vessels and can make a person more susceptible to leg ulcers.
- Arterial diseases.
- Varicose veins.
- Some cardiovascular medications.
Identifying Leg UlcersLeg ulcers have distinctive characteristics that distinguish them from other types of wounds:
- They are wide depressions.
- The surrounding skin is inflamed and may be hardened or calloused.
- Yellowish-white pus is present inside the wound.
- Pain is felt when standing.
Natural Treatments for Leg UlcersLeg ulcers should be first treated like other wounds. The ulcers should be cleansed first. After applying an antibacterial ointment, a dry dressing should be applied and changed at least once a week. Leg ulcers have been shown to heal faster if they are covered, so they should not be left exposed. Some other standard treatments for leg ulcers include:
- Compression: The foot and lower leg is wrapped in elasticised bandages or a tight stocking is worn. This helps reduce oedema (swelling) and improve circulation.
- Vitamin and mineral supplements may help if they are deficient. Zinc, vitamin C and iron are particularly important.
- Hyperbaric oxygen treatment (breathing pure, pressurised oxygen) is now accepted as an effective treatment for leg ulcers and is often used when other treatments are not effective.