Chronic Wound Care
An injury or small wound over the skin will normally heal within a week or two. However, sometimes due to an underlying medical condition, a small wound on the leg may take months to heal and may even worsen. Wounds that take more than six weeks to heal are considered chronic leg wounds or ulcers. Chronic leg wounds can become infected and threaten the functionality of your limb and even your life.
Most leg wounds occur due to an underlying venous disease that often affects the lower extremities. Arterial diseases or other conditions such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis may also cause poor healing with leg wounds. In venous diseases, the valves in the leg veins do not function properly or blood clots may form in the veins. This causes the blood to flow backwards resulting in abnormally high pressure in the vein when standing for long periods of time. This high pressure damages the skin of the legs leading to small breaks in the skin that can develop into wounds.
The treatment of leg wounds involves regular and appropriate dressings that protect the wound from infection and promote healing. At every dressing change, the wound is cleansed by gentle washing with warm water or saline water. Debridement may be performed under local anesthetic if there is a large amount of dead tissue over the wound which needs to be removed in order to promote healing. The progress in healing is carefully monitored and the type of dressing used is changed depending on the stage of healing. If the wound is infected, a course of antibiotics may be prescribed. Pain medication may also be prescribed, if required. Skin grafting may be considered in rare cases involving very large or treatment-resistant leg wounds.
Even after healing, there are chances of recurrence as the underlying problem still persists. Thus the following precautions should be taken to prevent the recurrence of leg wounds:
- Compression bandages and stockings should be worn at all times during the day. Legs should be kept elevated whenever possible.
- Eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly is important for overall general health.
- If you are obese, talk to your doctor about healthy ways to lose weight.
- Quit smoking as it delays healing.
Legs should be regularly examined for any minor skin condition such as blisters, broken skin, swelling or redness and these should be treated at the earliest to prevent the development of a wound.