A pressure ulcer is a sore caused by a cutting off of blood supply to the affected area. Due to how commonly circulation is cut off by constrictive socks or shoes, foot ulcers are especially common. Today we’ll look at the different stages a foot ulcer can present under and strategies to prevent and manage them.
Five Stages of Pressure Ulcers
Doctors and podiatrists have studied the development of pressure ulcers and come up with five stages of foot ulcer development. Four of these stages cover the major steps of the condition’s progression, with a fifth for more complicated cases. These stages are as follows:
In Stage I, the skin around a pressure ulcer will be discolored and not turn white when pressure is applied. Instead, the skin will remain discolored or turn a deeper or redder shade when pressed. Doctors call this a nonblanchable erythema.
At Stage I, most pressure ulcers can be treated with at-home remedies. However, it may be advisable to seek medical attention to get a diagnosis and treatment plan. This will help make sure the ulcer doesn’t progress to worse stages.
Starting in Stage II, pressure ulcers begin to experience partial-thickness skin loss. They may resemble shallow open wounds, typically red or brown in coloration.
To treat Stage II, the area must be kept regularly covered and disinfected. Steps will also need to be taken to avoid applying further pressure to the site. Some doctors may recommend dietary changes at this stage to prevent the condition from worsening.
When a foot pressure ulcer enters Stage III, that partial-thickness skin loss becomes full-thickness skin loss. The open sore will now extend into the subcutaneous skin layer. These can be very painful and serious, requiring direct and urgent medical attention.
Finally, Stage IV pressure ulcers are where the damage to the skin extends beyond the fascia. The fascia is the layer of tissue connecting the bone to the foot tissue. At this stage, immediate medical intervention is required.
Unstageable Pressure Ulcers
Unstageable pressure ulcers have full-thickness skin loss like a Stage III ulcer but also have a layer of necrotic tissue. Unstageable ulcers require a surgical procedure to remove that necrotic tissue before further treatment. In certain cases, foot amputation is required.
Four Strategies to Get Your Foot Ulcer Under Control
If you’re concerned about a foot ulcer or developing one, what steps can be made to prevent or treat them? Here are some strategies to help get foot ulcers under control.
1. Comfortable Footwear
Pressure ulcers are caused by additional pressure around a part of the body. The most common cause of this kind of constrictive pressure is overly tight shoes or socks. Wearing loose or comfortable footwear that doesn’t cut off circulation is one of the easiest ways to avoid foot ulcers.
2. Regular Inspections
Spotting a foot ulcer early leads to it being treated early. This helps avoid it developing into one of the more painful later stages. A good way to check for pressure ulcers is to look at the bottoms of your feet with a mirror. This way, you can catch small changes before they even turn into ulcers.
Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider if you notice hot spots, red streaks, swelling, or any cracks or sores. It will also help to inspect the soles and insides of your shoes before putting them on. That way, any small objects like pebbles or other obstructions can be removed.
3. Prescribed Orthotics
Your doctor may prescribe orthotics to take pressure off of hot spots and ulcers. Custom-made shoe inserts also can absorb or divert pressure from problem areas. In some cases, special shoes or temporary casts may also be used for treatment. All of these will help alleviate pressure while also helping cover the ulcer while it heals.
4. Cleaning the Ulceration
Even if caught early, a foot ulcer can have damaged and dead skin around it that slows the healing process. Doctors can clear some of that thickened skin to help assist healing, as well as apply medicated ointments or creams. Sometimes they’ll also apply a special dressing to keep the wound dry.
Manage and Prevent Your Foot Pressure Ulcers with Diablo Foot and Ankle
With just a few simple steps, foot pressure ulcers can be easily managed or even prevented. If you need help getting your foot ulcers under control, schedule an appointment at Diablo Foot and Ankle in Walnut Creek.
Common Podiatry Questions
What is a Podiatrist?
A podiatrist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the foot and ankle.
What does a Podiatrist treat?
A podiatrist is a doctor who specializes in the medical and surgical care of the feet. They can treat conditions such as ingrown toenails, fungal toenails, bunions, hammertoes, and plantar fasciitis.
What’s the difference between a Podiatrist and Orthopedist?
A Podiatrist and Orthopedist are very similar to each other in many ways. They use most of the same tools and treat a lot of the same conditions. The main difference between the two is their medical training. Podiatrists are trained exclusively on the foot and ankle, whereas the Orthopedic is trained on the whole body with an additional year of training on the foot and ankle.