What Is It?
A foot ulcer is an open sore on the foot.
A foot ulcer can be a shallow red crater that involves only the surface skin. A foot ulcer also can be very deep. A deep foot ulcer may be a crater that extends through the full thickness of the skin. It may involve tendons, bones and other deep structures.
People with diabetes and people with poor circulation are more likely to develop foot ulcers. It can be difficult to heal a foot ulcer. In people with these conditions, even a small foot ulcer can become infected if it does not heal quickly.
If an infection occurs in an ulcer and is not treated right away, it can develop into:
Among people with diabetes, most severe foot infections that ultimately require some part of the toe, foot or lower leg to be amputated start as a foot ulcer.
Foot ulcers are especially common in people who have one or more of the following health problems:
More than any other group, people with diabetes have a particularly high risk of developing foot ulcers. This is because the long-term complications of diabetes often include neuropathy and circulatory problems. Without prompt and proper treatment, a foot ulcer may require hospital treatment. Or, it may lead to deep infection or gangrene and amputation.
In addition to diabetes, other medical conditions that increase the risk of foot ulcers include:
It is rare for a foot ulcer to be unrelated to these risk factors and illnesses. A foot ulcer in a person who has none of these health problems may need to be checked for skin cancer, especially squamous cell carcinoma. This cancer occasionally looks like a foot ulcer.
Page 1 of 9 Next Page: Foot Ulcers Symptoms
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.
You can find more great health information on the Harvard Health Publications website.