Health A-Z

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If you have good circulation in your foot, your doctor may treat your foot ulcer with a procedure called debridement. This consists of trimming away diseased tissue. He or she also will remove any nearby callused skin.

The doctor then will apply a dressing. He or she may prescribe specialized footwear to relieve pressure on the ulcerated area. This specialized footwear may be a cast. Or it may be a loosely fitting postoperative walking shoe or sandal that can be worn over a bandage.

Your doctor will need to see you frequently to examine and debride the area. A nurse may need to visit you to change the dressing every several days. Care of a foot ulcer can require multiple visits over weeks or months. The visits will last for as long as it takes for your ulcer to heal completely. If there is a possibility of infection, you may be given antibiotics.

Once the ulcer has healed, your doctor may prescribe roomy, well-cushioned footwear. This footwear should not put pressure on vulnerable areas of your feet. This will help to prevent ulcers in the future.

Foot ulcers that do not respond to more conservative therapy may require surgery. In certain situations, without leg surgery, the ulcer may not heal properly.

People with poor circulation may need a procedure or surgery to open one or more blocked arteries in the legs. When possible, doctors will try to open the blockage with angioplasty. This is usually done by threading a deflated balloon with a wire mesh cover (called a stent) into the blocked area. The balloon is inflated. This opens the artery. The stent stays in place to hold the artery open. For more significant blood flow problems, surgery is usually needed to re-route blood flow through the leg using a bypass artery.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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