Take Steps To Prevent Foot and Leg Problems

By Angela Quinn

Did you know that something as small as a hangnail on your toenail can become a wound that can takes months to heal? Did you know that if you have poor circulation in your legs you could develop ulcers that have difficulty healing even though there has been no injury?

Chronic wounds affect 4 million Americans per year and approximately 10 to 15 percent of diabetics develop chronic wounds. Risk factors associated with developing these wounds are liver illness, kidney problems, cardiac problems including difficulties with circulation, diabetes and cancer. There are different types of wounds including diabetic, arterial and venous.

Diabetic wounds are usually found on the bottom of the foot. They can be associated with neuropathy or decreased sensation of the feet.

To prevent and treat these wounds, it is important to:

•  make sure your blood sugars are under control

•  stop smoking

•  wash and inspect feet daily because you may have a wound and not be able to feel it

•  routinely see a podiatrist

•  notify a physician if you notice a blister or sore developing.

It is also important to wear proper fitting shoes that do not rub or place abnormal pressure on parts of your feet.

Venous wounds occur because of poor venous returns or competent valves in the legs and can be associated with high blood pressure. These wounds often occur on the middle lower leg and may have pain when the foot is hanging down in sitting or standing. They are associated with blood clots, pregnancy or varicose veins. To prevent and treat these wounds, compression stockings are often indicated.

Arterial wounds are usually due to inadequate blood supply going to limbs, most often due to arteriosclerosis with coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity and congestive heart failure.

They are often painful especially with longer walking duration and elevation of the legs. Treatment is to increase circulation and manage the medical conditions that cause them.

For any wound, you should see a doctor immediately. A bandage and some antibiotic cream usually do not help these types of wounds. The longer you have them, the longer they take to heal. See your physician of you have any of these risk factors.

A little prevention goes a long way.

Angela Quinn, MPT, is the lead physical therapist for Life Care Center of Hilton Head.