For nearly 20 years, a chronic health problem has endured for Eddie Branch of Granite City, Illinois.
“I have poor circulation and those ulcers keep coming on my ankles and my feet,” Branch said. After many years of treatment in St. Louis, surgery, and care in Alton, Illinois, a hospital told him he needed to go to a wound center.
Poor circulation is a cardiovascular condition that can be caused by clogged blood vessels (atherosclerosis), peripheral artery disease, which leads to hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), diabetes, smoking, autoimmune diseases and other conditions.
In 2009, it was estimated that 6.5 million people in the U.S. lived with chronic wounds, costing more than $25 billion annually.
“Plaque formation in the arteries, obstruction in the arteries – usually it’s caused by high cholesterol,” said Dr. Runda El-Khatb, of the Gateway Regional Wound and Hyperbaric Center in Edwardsville, Illinois. “It can be caused by diabetes; it can be caused by a lot of different things.”
Branch said he was treated for the circulation issue many years before he developed diabetes. Poor circulation robs the tissue of oxygen that is essential for the body to fend off harmful bacteria and to regenerate tissue, thus hindering wound healing.
“If you have don’t have good circulation, you don’t have good blood flow,” El-Khatb said. “And if you don’t have good blood flow to the area, it can basically die, cause skin breakdown and eventually a wound.”
The discoloration in Branch’s legs is a result of this chronic condition and wounds to his extremities are treated at home and at Gateway in Edwardsville. Branch said he follows steps for chronic wound care, which includes a regime of taking daily antibiotics, cleaning, applying medicine to the ulcer and rewrapping the wounds with fresh bandaging.
Depending on what caused the wounds, El-Khatb said some could recur.
“He’s got severe lymphedema, so he’s got a lot of swelling,” she said. “He’s hard to heal because of that.”
Despite poor circulation, chronic lymphedema and diabetes, Branch said his lesions are under better control since he has been going there for wound care.
Branch also walks as exercise. Gateway says staying active during the winter can enhance healthy circulation and persons with chronic wounds should take extra care during winter months.
For more information on poor circulation and other cardiovascular conditions, visit www.heart.org.