Ulcers, sores, and wounds on the feet and ankles are, by far, the leading cause of non-traumatic amputations in the United States. Nothing else comes close, and the stats are genuinely alarming—nearly 100,000 Americans each year.
Unfortunately, many of these cases begin with something seemingly benign, like a cut or a burst blister. Or, an ulcer may form slowly over time due to friction or pressure from ill-fitting shoes, or sometimes just extremely poor circulation. And if you suffer from severe neuropathy, you may not feel any pain or even notice the ulcer at all until it’s become severe—particularly if you aren’t checking your feet every day.
If you have a sore on your feet, ankles, or legs that doesn’t seem to want to heal, do not underestimate it simply because it doesn’t hurt or doesn’t seem to be interfering with your daily activities. Immediate intervention as early as possible is the first essential component of preventing serious complications.
The second essential component? Choosing a practice that excels in wound care with advanced techniques available—like Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists.
How Do Wounds Lead to Amputation?
The longer that you have an open sore or ulcer that doesn’t want to heal, the greater the opportunity for bacteria, viruses, or other parasitic microorganisms to attack the inside of your body and start an infection.
Once an infection sets in, it starts to permanently destroy otherwise healthy tissue. And the longer you wait to address the problem, the deeper that infection spreads and the more different systems or tissues are affected. An infection that begins merely in the upper layers of skin, in time, can spread to lower layers of skin, muscle, and even bone.
Once the infection crosses a certain threshold, and enough tissue has been permanently destroyed, there may be no realistic “way back” for your toe, foot, or even leg. At that point, an amputation will be the only way to stop the infection before it literally kills you.
We say this not to frighten you, but to make sure you take this seriously. Almost all amputations are preventable. But you have to act!
Wound Care: A Basic Overview
The basic goals of wound care, in short, to heal the wound as fast as possible and to protect the wound from infection as much as possible as it heals. (Again, to reiterate: the earlier you start on wound care, the better your odds will be.)
Standard wound care generally includes the following components at a minimum:
- Cleaning (debriding) the wound. Dead skin and other contaminants can accumulate in the wound and keep it from healing efficiently. We’ll clean this out.
- Applying medications and dressings. Although it was once thought that “airing out” the wound was beneficial, we now know that this is false. The wound must stay covered and moist for optimal healing and lowering infection risk.
- Keeping weight and pressure off the wound. This might include things like walking with crutches, using a walking boot, avoiding constricting footwear, etc.
- Attending to contributing health or lifestyle problems. Managing your blood sugar, eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol abuse, etc. can all help you maintain better circulatory health in your legs. This will help your wound heal faster, and also help you prevent future wounds.
Improving Your Odds with Advanced Wound Healing Techniques
The science of wound care has come a long way even in the last few years, and our practice has stayed at the forefront of the latest developments in wound care treatments and technology.
While seeking professional care as early as possible is still the single most important predictive factor in terms of whether or not amputation is necessary, the quality of the care you receive also matters a great deal.
And to put it simply: amputation is a significant, irreversible consequence that will have a profound impact on the rest of your life. Why wouldn’t you give yourself every possible advantage you can to avoid it?
One way we’re helping improve the odds in our patients’ favor is through the use of amniotic treatments and grafts. There are many key advantages to using these products and techniques:
- They’re loaded with essential components (mesenchymal stem cells, growth factors, etc.) that your body uses to help heal wounds faster.
- A dehydrated amniotic membrane graft makes an excellent barrier against external infections, and it gives your own skin cells a “matrix” on which to quickly construct new tissue—essentially, it’s like scaffolding for your body.
- Standard tissue grafts either come from your own body (so we literally have to create a new wound to cover the old one) or from donors (where there is a risk of rejection). Amniotic grafts sidestep both these problems, as their “immunologically privileged” status makes rejection nearly impossible.
Using advanced techniques such as these, we’re able to help our patients heal faster and stay better protected from infection. For many of our patients, this absolutely has been the difference between keeping their feet and losing them for good.
Supporting You Over the Long Term
Another way we’re helping ensure better long-term success for our patients is by supporting them through the entire healing process and beyond.
Statistically speaking, most people who develop one wound will eventually develop more. But it is not inevitable, and having a good prevention plan in place can help you improve the odds that your most recent severe wound will also be your last—in a good way!
Basic components of this long-term plan that you’ll hear from just about any podiatrist will include things like diabetic shoes, exercise, healthy diet, and the like. This is all excellent advice!
But once again, we can help you take it a step further. One key example would be the use of Go 4-D orthotics, an advanced orthotics system that uses enhanced digital scanning, pressure mapping, and 3D printing to construct the most effective and sophisticated orthotics available anywhere right now.
Because these orthotics are fabricated from scratch based on a detailed scan of how weight and pressure are distributed across your feet, they can neutralize “hot spots” where wounds are likely to form with greater precision than any other device on the market right now. They also come in styles specifically built for added safety for diabetic feet.
Don’t Become a Statistic
Nothing, and we mean nothing, is harder for a patient or a doctor than to permanently remove what was once a healthy, functional foot.
That’s why we are so committed to doing everything in our power to prevent that outcome. And thanks to these and other advanced wound healing therapies, we are seeing a real difference.
But everything still starts with you! Please, please do not wait until the last minute to seek help for your foot, ankle, or leg wound. Give us a call today at (512) 328-8900 and we will get you in as quickly as possible, so you can get back on your two healthy feet in the shortest possible time frame.
5000 Bee Caves Rd., Suite 202
Austin, TX 78746