What are ischemic wounds?

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Ischemic wounds develop due to blocked flow of blood to the small and medium vascular beds in the body which is known as arterial insufficiency. The ischemic wounds are usually found on the legs, feet and toes, usually on the heels, shins, tops or sides of the feet, toe tips or in between the toes where skin rub against one another.


Once the flow of blood is blocked in an area of the body, the tissues are deprived of essential nutrients which results to cellular damage and death. The damaged tissue that has been deprived of blood flow has poor ability to heal.

The root cause of congested blood flow is atherosclerosis. This condition is the usual cause of ischemic wounds but other conditions such as inflammation or excessive build-up of fluid are also possible causes.

Ischemic wounds
The ischemic wounds are usually found on the legs, feet and toes, usually on the heels, shins, tops or sides of the feet, toe tips or in between the toes where skin rub against one another.

Those who have arterial insufficiency often have other medical conditions that add up to diminished sensation especially in the lower limbs. Inability to feel sore sensations along with the diminished blood flow contributes to the formation of ischemic wounds and even disrupt with the healing process.


Ischemic wounds can be yellow, dark red, gray or black in color and do not bleed. Swelling may or may not be present around the wound depending if there is infection or not.

The borders of the wound might be elevated. If the limb is allowed to dangle for a period of time, it usually turns red. If elevated, the redness turns pale and cool to the touch.

Ischemic wounds can be painful and most find that the pain subsides if the leg is dangled forward. It is believed that this assists in reducing the pain due to the gravity that helps with the flow of the blood to the area.


Depending on the condition of the individual, overall health and severity of the wound, the doctor might recommend invasive tests or even surgical procedure to bypass the jammed blood vessels and reinstate the flow of blood to the affected region.

Debridement is not a viable treatment for ischemic wounds since it often results to worsening of the wound. The treatment varies depending on the location and condition of the individual but the general objective of treatment includes the following:

  • Relief from pain
  • Prevention of the development of more ischemic wounds
  • Monitor for indications of infection
  • Eliminate any irritants on the wound
  • Protect the skin surrounding the wound and prevent the spread of the ischemic area

Additional measures to promote healing must be carried out such as following a healthy diet, using the prescribed medications and increasing the intake of fluids.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on ischemic wounds is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage ischemic wounds with proper wound care measures, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. 

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