What Causes Skin Ulcer and How Is It Treated?

What are Skin Ulcers?

Skin Ulcers are referred to open sores that at times are seen in many people which are accompanied by sloughing off of tissue and presence of inflammation around the area of the sore. A Skin Ulcer can be caused due to a variety of reasons which range from trauma to exposure to extreme heat to even issues with blood circulation. Pressure ulcer is the name given to ulcers on the skin surface that are caused due to poor blood supply to various area of the body. This usually occurs in people who are bedridden due to chronic illness for prolonged periods of time [1].

There are times when a skin ulcer gets infected. This may be due to an open sore being contaminated with bacteria and other debris. This may have some serious complications. There are also certain medical conditions that may lead to development of Skin Ulcers. These conditions include diabetes, canker sores, peripheral vascular disease, and venous insufficiency. An individual with a skin ulcer will have an area with inflamed and erythematous skin. This area of skin may at times be filled with pus or fluid and may start to ooze [1].

What are Skin Ulcers?

With regard to treatments, it takes an awfully long time for skin ulcers to heal. If these are left untreated, infection can occur causing a variety of other complications. There is no specific area when a skin ulcer develops; however, they can be seen mostly in the legs, back, mouth, or lips. This article gives a detailed explanation of the causes and treatment options for skin ulcers [1].

What Causes Skin Ulcer And How Is It Treated?

Before understanding the cause of skin ulcers, it is important to understand the different types of skin ulcers. These include:

Venous Skin Ulcers: These are shallow open sores that are mostly seen in the lower legs. Poor blood circulation is the primary cause of this type of skin ulcer. The blood circulation in this part gets affected as a result of a damaged valve which prevents deoxygenated blood to return back to the heart for oxygenation. As a result, this blood starts to pool around the lower leg causing swelling. This swelling results in excessive pressure being exerted on the legs resulting in skin ulcers to form [2].

Ischemic Skin Ulcers: This type of skin ulcer develops when the arteries are not able to supply the lower half of the body sufficient oxygenated blood. This results in tissue necrosis and ulcer develops. This type of ulcer is mainly seen in the ankles, foot, and toes [2].

Neuropathic Skin Ulcers: This type of skin ulcers are normally seen in diabetics who have poor control of their condition. As time passes, the increased levels of sugar results in significant nerve damage which affects the sensory system of the body, especially in the upper and lower extremities. Medically referred to as a neuropathy, this is seen in around 80% of people with diabetes [2].

In such people, even a small cut or a bruise can result in the development of ulcers. In fact, people may not even know that they have an ulcer until the affected area starts to ooze pus or fluid or there are other signs of an infection [2].

Pressure Ulcers: These types of skin ulcers are also called as bedsores or decubitus ulcers. These occur as a result of constant pressure exerted on the skin around the affected area. The tissues of the skin have the ability to manage some degree of pressure which is up to the range of 30 mmHg [2].

If the pressure on the skin crosses this barrier the blood circulation gets affected resulting in tissue necrosis and development of ulcers. These are usually seen in people who are wheelchair bound or are bedridden due to some chronic illness. If these ulcers are not treated then it can cause significant damage to the tissues, ligaments, or muscles [2].

Buruli Ulcer: This type of ulcer develops as a result of a bacterial infection mycobacterium ulcerans. The ulcers due to this infection are usually large and form on the upper and lower extremities. If it is not treated on time it can lead to significant physical damage and even make the individual disabled [2].

Stasis Dermatitis: This type of skin ulcer is also termed as Gravitational Ulcer. This causes skin inflammation and irritation. These ulcers normally develop in the lower extremities. Poor circulation is the primary cause of this type of ulcer. The National Eczema Association states stasis dermatitis occurs more commonly in females than males and that too in females above the age of 50 [2].

In conclusion, the primary causes for skin ulcer are normally poor blood circulation and bacterial infections. During the beginning of the formation of the skin ulcer the affected area will have irritation and the skin will look discolored. As the condition progresses, there is gradual disintegration of the skin tissues and a wound forms causing an ulcer. The treatment of a skin ulcer depends on the type of the ulcer and the severity of it [1, 2].

Mild cases of skin ulcer can be treated easily at home provided that it has not been infected. The treatment is aimed at preventing any infection from setting in. Priority is given for the affected area to be kept clean and covered to prevent it from getting contaminated [1, 2].

In cases where the ulcer starts to ooze fluid and there is pain and swelling, then it is a sign of an infection and a consultation with a physician is required to identify the infection on time and start treatment [1, 2].