Common Causes for Foot Ulcer

orthopedic foot care

Foot ulcers are becoming a major healthcare problem around the globe as it is estimated that about 4 million people get foot ulcers each year. A foot ulcer is an open sore on the foot, that looks like a red crater involving the surface of the skin or extends deeper through the full thickness of the skin and sometimes, may also involve tendons, bones, and other deep structures.

The most common causes of foot ulcers are:


People with diabetes are more likely to develop foot ulcers as they may not feel their feet very well to examine the initial damage. Moreover, these ulcers cause the skin to wear away, most commonly because of damaged nerves in the feet (or any extremity). This can lead to the development of diabetic foot ulcers, which is also a common condition.

To further complicate things, people with high blood sugar levels have a slow healing tendency and may have a hard time fighting the infection, which may require them to have debridement or even amputation.

Nerve Damage

Nerve damage is a long-term effect and is more common in people with other comorbidities. When the nerve is damaged, you may lose sensation and the ability to feel pain in your feet. This is dangerous as you may injure your feet, or develop an ulcer, and still may not know about it as there is no feeling to it.

Poor Blood Circulation

Poor blood circulation in the leg arteries is called peripheral artery disease. Due to this condition, you may not get enough blood and oxygen to the feet, which affects your body’s healing process. So, when a sore or wound develops, instead of healing, it can turn into a foot ulcer.

Abnormalities of the Feet
Any condition that alters the foot’s anatomy can lead to a foot ulcer. When you force your feet into an ill-fitting shoe, the friction when your foot or toe rubs against the toe box can cause foot ulcers. Also, foot and toe ulcers are often found alongside toe conditions such as hammertoe, mallet toe, and claw toe.

Other medical conditions that increase the risk of foot ulcers include:

    • Raynaud’s PhenomenonThis is a condition that causes sudden episodes of decreased blood flow to the fingers and toes.
    • Atherosclerosis This condition involves the poor circulation of blood to the legs due to fat deposits inside the arteries.
    • Injury to Foot or Toe – Resulting in a traumatic foot or toe ulcer
    • Infections – Such as herpes simplex, leprosy, HIV, Epstein Barr virus.


Many foot ulcers start small, and can quickly develop complications such as infection, gangrene, and abscess, leading to debridement or amputation of the foot or toe. Fortunately, taking early preventive measures can help protect your foot or toe from the above consequences.

If you are a diabetic see a foot care specialist for regular foot examinations. If you are having a round red carter that is thick, calloused skin at the side or bottom of the foot or on the top or tip of a toe, then get them checked immediately to avoid further complications.

Carolina Regional Orthopaedics

Carolina Regional Orthopaedics provides the most effective, modern, and innovative techniques in both Orthopedic Surgery and Pain Management using proven methodologies in both the surgical and non-surgical treatment of all conditions affecting the spine, upper extremities, and lower extremities. We specialize in hand and wrist surgery, joint replacements, sports medicine, trauma care, pediatric orthopedics, pain management, wound care, regenerative medicine, physical therapy, imaging services, and EMG testing.