Ulcers are breaks in the skin which fail to heal by themselves and may be accompanied by inflammation. Ulcers can occur anywhere on the body, however for this editorial I am specifically going to limit this to foot and leg ulcers.
A foot or leg ulcer is an open sore on the foot that looks like a red crater on skin. A leg ulcer can be shallow and only break through the surface of the skin or it can be very deep, extending through the full thickness of skin exposing tendons and bones. Leg ulcers are located mostly on the side of the foot or on the top or tip of the toe.
If leg ulcers are not treated quickly, they can get infected with serious consequences. Leg ulcers can develop into an abscess and spread through skin and into the bone. This can lead to gangrene or the death of the tissue.
Common causal factors for leg ulcers
Some of the common causes for leg ulcers include:
Circulatory problems – vascular diseases including stroke, heart attack and angina can result in poor circulation in the whole body. When the flow of blood to the feet is greatly reduced, the cells are deprived of oxygen and vital nutrients. This makes the skin more prone to injury and less able to heal itself.
Diabetes – a condition where individuals have high blood sugar levels. In diabetics, the cells either do not produce sufficient insulin or their response to insulin is greatly diminished resulting in higher sugar levels. Sugar destroys protein structures within our bodies including nerves and when accompanied by poor circulation, the result is often a greater risk for leg ulcers to occur.
Peripheral neuropathy – this is a condition where nerve damage occurs in the legs and feet. Since the nerves are damaged, there is no sensation of pain and hence when one wears tight fitting shoes that rub on skin, this goes undetected and increases the risk of leg and foot ulcers.
Abnormality to the structure of the foot – any alteration to the normal anatomy of the foot can result in leg ulcers. Arthritis, fractures and bone deformities are all contributory factors.
Treating Leg Ulcers
Conventional treatments for treating leg ulcers usually involve your GP cutting out the diseased tissue and any callused skin. A simple non-sticky dressing is used and needs to be changed once a week. In some cases, this dressing may have an antibiotic impregnated into the dressing in case the leg ulcer is infected. This form of treatment relies on keeping the wound clean but does not accelerate healing time. For people with good circulation, the healing of the ulcer can take approximately 12 weeks, whilst it may take longer for those with poorer circulation.
I tend to recommend the use of Manuka Honey for its multiple benefits in healing leg ulcers. Manuka Honey is a monofloral honey found in New Zealand where the Manuka tree is a native plant. There are multiple published scientific research papers showing the positive healing effect of medical grade Manuka Honey on leg ulcers, bedsores and hard to heal wounds. Collectively, the research has shown that Manuka Honey inhibits more than 80 species of bacteria, particularly those that are found in hard to heal wounds. It is important to realise that the research is based on medical grade Manuka Honey for topical use and not the jars of Manuka Honey that are widely available in stores. The topical product I recommend is Meloderm Manuka Honey UMF 15+ which has been sterilised with gamma irradiation, not heat, for use on wounds and leg ulcers. The UMF mark is the established industry quality mark to show that the Manuka Honey contains sufficient antibacterial levels. Use Meloderm Manuka Honey UMF 15+ for any wound that is hard to heal, for bedsores, burns and for leg ulcers.