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Skin ulcers are open sores that are often accompanied by the sloughing-off of inflamed tissue.
Skin ulcers can be caused by a variety of events, such as trauma, exposure to heat or cold, problems with blood circulation, or irritation from exposure to corrosive material. Pressure ulcers, also known as decubitus ulcers or bedsores, are skin ulcers that develop on areas of the body where the blood supply has been reduced because of prolonged pressure; these may occur in people confined to bed or a chair, or in those who must wear a hard brace or plaster cast. Skin ulcers may become infected, with serious health consequences. Other health conditions that can cause skin ulcers include mouth ulcers (canker sores), chronic venous insufficiency, diabetes, infection, and peripheral vascular disease.
People with a skin ulcer may have an area of reddened skin. In advanced cases, people may have areas where the skin is open and oozing fluid.
A double-blind trial found systemic hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) treatments, in which the patient is placed in a chamber with highly concentrated oxygen, five days per week for six weeks significantly improved healing of nondiabetic chronic leg ulcers.1 This trial confirms the results from several preliminary studies of systemic HBO therapy.2, 3 While topical application of HBO (the affected body part is encased in a balloon-like chamber and exposed to concentrated oxygen) for skin ulcers has been reported effective in preliminary trials,4 controlled trials have produced conflicting results.5, 6 In controlled studies of diabetic patients with skin ulcers or gangrene, systemic HBO has been shown to prevent amputation of affected limbs.7, 8
Electrical stimulation applied to the skin is thought to have several biological effects that might accelerate skin ulcer healing.9 A variety of techniques have been investigated, and controlled or double-blind trials have shown positive results for the use of low-voltage galvanic current, high-voltage pulsed current, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), and pulsed high-frequency electromagnetic therapy.10
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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2017.