When new epidermis can grow across an ulcer it will, and the aim is to produce an environment in which this can take place.

To this end several measures can be taken:

(1) Oedema may be reduced by means of: (a) diuretics; (b) keeping the legs elevated when sitting; (c) avoiding standing as far as possible; (d) raising the heels slightly from time to time helps venous return by the "calf muscle pump"; (e) applying compression bandages to create a pressure gradient towards the thigh.

(2) Exudate and slough should be removed. Lotions can be used to clean the ulcer and as compresses—0-9% saline solution, sodium hypochlorite solution, Eusol, or 5% hydrogen peroxide.

Atrophie blanche

"Champagne bottle legs" with ulceration

"Champagne bottle legs" with ulceration

"Champagne bottle legs" with ulceration


Cleaning the ulcers
Cleaning with saline solution
Applying antiseptic cream

Leg ulcers

There is some evidence that antiseptic solutions and chlorinated solutions (such as sodium hypochlorite and Eusol) delay collagen production and cause inflammation. Enzyme preparations may help by "digesting" the slough. To prevent the formation of granulation tissue use silver nitrate 0-25% compresses, a silver nitrate "stick" for more exuberant tissue, and curettage, if necessary.

The dressings applied to the ulcer can consist of: (a) simple non-stick, paraffin gauze dressings—an allergy may develop to those with an antibiotic; (b) wet compresses with saline or silver nitrate solutions for exudative lesions; (c) silver sulfadiazine (Flamazine) or hydrogen peroxide creams (Hioxyl); and (d) absorbent dressings, consisting of hydrocolloid patches or powder, which are helpful for smaller ulcers. Paste bandages, impregnated with zinc oxide and antiseptics or ichthammol, help to keep dressings in place and provide protection. They may, however, traumatise the skin, and allergic reactions to their constituents are not uncommon.

(5) Treatment of infection is less often necessary than is commonly supposed. All ulcers are colonised by bacteria to some extent, usually coincidental staphylococci. A purulent exudate is an indication for a broad spectrum antibiotic and a swab for bacteriology. Erythema, oedema, and tenderness around the ulcers suggest a p haemolytic streptococcal infection, which will require long term antibiotic treatment. Dyes can be painted on the edge of the ulcer, where they fix to the bacterial wall as well as the patient's skin. In Scotland bright red eosin is traditionally used, while in the south a blue dye, gentian violet, is favoured. Systemic antibiotics have little effect on ulcers but are indicated if there is surrounding cellulitis. A swab for culture and sensitivity helps to keep track of organisms colonising the area.

(6) Surrounding eczematous changes should be treated. Use topical steroids, not more than medium strength, avoiding the ulcer itself. Ichthammol 1% in 15% zinc oxide and white soft paraffin or Ichthopaste bandages can be used as a protective layer, and topical antibiotics can be used if necessary. It is important to remember that any of the commonly used topical preparations can cause an allergic reaction: neomycin, lanolin, formaldehyde, tars, Chinaform (the "C" of many proprietary steroids).

(7) Skin grafting can be very effective. There must be a healthy viable base for the graft, with an adequate blood supply; natural re-epithelialisation from the edges of the ulcer is a good indication that a graft will be supported. Pinch grafts or partial thickness grafts can be used. Any clinical infection, particularly with pseudomonal organisms, should be treated.

(8) Maintaining general health, with adequate nutrition and weight reduction, is important.

(9) Corrective surgery for associated venous abnormalities.

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  • pasqualina
    Can ichthopaste cure cellulitis?
    9 years ago

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