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Wounds That Won't Heal

Having a wound or sore on your leg or foot that persists and fails to heal can be a symptom of peripheral vascular disease compromising circulation. Identifying and treating the underlying vascular condition is key to restoring healthy wound healing.

How Vascular Disease Impairs Wound Healing

Several processes are at work in normal wound repair and closure. There must be adequate blood flow to deliver oxygen, nutrients, and healing factors to the tissue. Blood flow also removes waste and infection-fighting white blood cells must circulate to the area.

In peripheral artery disease (PAD), diabetes, or other conditions causing impaired circulation, blood supply to extremities is reduced. This critically diminishes the delivery of healing components and oxygen to wounds. Poor circulation also prevents efficient waste product removal and immune cell access.

Due to inadequate blood, nutrients, and oxygen, the wound becomes stalled in a chronic inflammatory state. Healing cannot progress properly through the normal phases of coagulation, inflammation, proliferation, and remodeling required for the restoration of skin integrity.

Signs of Vascular Disease Affecting Wound Healing

If you are experiencing any of the warning signs of vascular disease affecting wound healing, it is important to see a vascular specialist right away. Vascular diseases are serious conditions but are often treatable. With early diagnosis and treatment, you can improve your chances of healing your wound and preventing further complications. Here are some additional details about the warning signs of vascular disease affecting wound healing:

  • Wound that has persisted for several weeks with no improvement
    A wound that is not healing properly is a sign that something is wrong. If your wound has not improved after several weeks, it is important to see a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions, such as Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).
  • Wound edges appear pale or bluish
    Pale or bluish wound edges indicate that the area is not receiving enough blood flow. This can be a sign of PAD or other vascular problems.
  • Leg is cooler around the wound area
    A cooler leg around the wound area is another sign of poor circulation. This is because the blood vessels in the leg are narrowed or blocked, which prevents blood from flowing properly to the area.
  • Wound drainage, odor, or increased pain
    Drainage, odor, or increased pain from a wound are signs of infection. Infection can slow down the healing process and make it more difficult to treat.
  • Wound location on the feet, lower legs, or digits
    Wounds that occur on the feet, lower legs, or digits are more likely to be affected by PAD. This is because the blood vessels in these areas are smaller and more delicate than the blood vessels in other parts of the body.
  • Known PAD risk factors
    If you have any of the known risk factors for PAD, you are more likely to develop the condition. These risk factors include age, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and family history of PAD.

Vascular Diseases and Wounds that Won't Heal

Wounds that won't heal are a common sign of vascular disease because the reduced blood flow to the affected area makes it difficult for the body to repair the damage. As a result, the wound may become infected or may not heal at all. There are a number of things that can increase your risk of developing vascular diseases, including:

  • Age
    Vascular diseases are more common in people over the age of 50.
  • Smoking
    Smoking damages the lining of the arteries, which can lead to plaque buildup.
  • Diabetes
    Diabetes can damage the nerves and blood vessels, which can make it difficult for wounds to heal.
  • High blood pressure
    High blood pressure can damage the arteries, which can lead to plaque buildup.
  • High cholesterol
    High cholesterol can contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries.
  • Family history
    If you have a family history of PAD, you are more likely to develop the condition.

Treating Vascular Disease to Improve Wound Healing

It is important to note that these are just some of the treatments that may be used to treat vascular disease and improve wound healing. The best treatment for you will depend on the severity of your condition and your individual needs. If an underlying peripheral vascular disease like peripheral artery disease (PAD) is impairing wound healing, the following treatments can help restore adequate circulation to enable the wound to close:

  • Medications
    Medications can be used to improve blood flow and reduce the risk of blood clots. These medications include anti-platelet drugs and pentoxifylline.
  • Compression therapy
    Compression therapy can be used to improve blood flow and reduce swelling. This therapy involves wearing special stockings or bandages that apply pressure to the legs.
  • Angioplasty
    Angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that can be used to widen blocked arteries. A thin, flexible tube called a catheter is inserted into the artery and then inflated to widen the blockage.
  • Stent placement
    A stent is a small, mesh tube that can be inserted into an artery to keep it open after angioplasty.
  • Endarterectomy
    Endarterectomy is a surgical procedure that removes plaque from the inside of an artery. This procedure is typically performed for extensive blockages.
  • Bypass surgery
    Bypass surgery is a surgical procedure that creates a new path for blood to flow around a blocked artery. This procedure is typically performed for severe blockages.
  • Wound debridement
    Wound debridement is the removal of dead, damaged, or infected tissue from a wound. This is important for promoting wound healing.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
    Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves exposing a wound to oxygen under pressure. This therapy can help to improve wound healing by stimulating the growth of new blood vessels and tissue.


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