Pressure ulcers affecting the feet can develop when there is too much pressure placed on one or both feet. Ulcers develop as a result of damage to the skin and underlying tissues. Such skin irritations often heal with treatment. Even so, taking steps to minimize your risk of developing pressure ulcers in the first place can prevent long-term issues with tissue, muscle, and joint damage.
What Causes Pressure Ulcers?
Pressure sores or ulcers develop over time when something presses or rubs against your feet. Sores can also be caused by wearing shoes that are too restrictive or by habits such as wearing shoes without socks (doing so may cause your foot to repeatedly rub against your shoe). The irritation can reach a point where it affects blood flow to the point where inflammation develops and affects nearby tissues.
The irritation can appear on feet and ankles. You may be at an increased risk of developing foot ulcers if you have a condition like type 2 diabetes or chronic high blood pressure that may affect circulation in your feet. Poor nutrition is sometimes a contributing factor as well.
How Can You Recognize Pressure Ulcers?
Redness and inflammation are typically the first signs of pressure ulcers. If undetected or untreated beyond this point, the inflammation of the foot will become worse and blistering may occur. It can sometimes be difficult to detect a pressure ulcer in its early stages if you have a condition that affects sensations in your foot.
Ulcers usually appear where the skin is stretched tightly. On the feet, this is often on the heel or ankle bone. More specifically, pressure ulcers tend to develop around the knob at the end of the fibula (lateral malleolus). Possible symptoms include:
- Skin that’s tender to the touch
- Noticeable pain while walking or putting on shoes
- Blisters and open sores on feet
- Tissue loss that may result in cratering (sunken hole)
What Are Possible Treatment Options?
Antibiotics are usually prescribed to treat pressure ulcers. In some situations, debridement may be recommended. It’s a procedure where dead or infected tissue is removed. It’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible to avoid severe infection and sepsis or septic arthritis (infection of the joints).
Wearing comfortable, supportive shoes may further reduce your risk of developing pressure ulcers. Taking steps to control underlying health issues that can affect your feet can also be helpful. Pay attention to any changes in your feet, including any unexplained sores, skin discoloration, tenderness, or foot pain. Response to treatment for pressure ulcers will depend on how deep into the skin the ulcer has developed.