Leg ulcers

Leg ulcers are very common. They affect approximately 1% of Australians and can often be very difficult to heal. In fact, many never do.

There are a number of underlying causes of leg ulcers such as diabetes, poor circulation, varicose veins, trauma etc. The treatment of these ulcers varies from one doctor, hospital and nurse to another. Even the massive global ulcer-healing industry is yet to find a simple, effective and economical way to heal them. The cost of treatment to patients for dressings, domiciliary and hospital care can be substantial.

The elderly, who represent the bulk of ulcer patients suffer pain, leakage, the unsightliness of wet dressings and malodour due to bacterial infection and can be very embarrassing for the patient. Due to the indolent nature of their condition, they often feel hopeless and, understandably, become depressed, which further aggravates their plight.

But, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Back in the 1930’s, cereal grass extracts, including wheatgrass, were found to hasten the healing of skin ulcers. By chance, in 1995, I was fortunate enough to “re-discover” how effective wheatgrass can be as a wound-healing agent, and I have used it effectively for this problem ever since.

CASE NO. 1.

The skin on this 82 year old man’s lower legs had been breaking down for about 6 months. As the skin thins with ageing, often a minor injury causes exudate (tissue fluid) to find its way through to the surface of the skin. This opens a small wound that can then develop into a venous ulcer. Skin scales and scabs form over the broken areas. If this process isn’t halted, ulcers can coalesce and deepen. This patient was well aware of the potential for further deterioration.

I explained how wheatgrass could work for him by helping to restore blood circulation to the area. This in turn would create new skin cells which should heal the several small ulcers present, and the skin would strengthen. So, he applied the wheatgrass extract twice weekly as instructed (it should not be applied more frequently than that) and kept the area covered with a dry dressing.

The photographs above show that in just 9 days there has been significant improvement. The scale and overlying scabs have almost disappeared and the ulcerated areas have healed. The skin is smoother and regaining its natural strength and texture.

CASE NO. 2.

This is an inflamed, very painful ulcer over the shin in an 80 year old man who has been taking steroid medication (prednisolone) for emphysema for nearly 8 years. One of the adversed side effects of steroids is atrophy or thinning of the skin. These patients bleed and bruise easily and the immune suppression caused by steroids can predispose wounds to infection and significantly inhibit the wound healing process.

This ulcer, caused by a minor injury, had been present for 5 months and was clearly not improving. By applying the wheatgrass spray, (twice weekly) in 13 weeks, the ulcer has healed completely. No antibiotics were required and the patient’s pain disappeared after the first month of treatment.

Which wheatgrass product should I use for leg ulcers?

Because the Skin Recovery Spray contains the least number of ingredients there is little chance of an allergic reaction which is rare anyway when using wheatgrass. Also, creams tend to block the passage of bioactives in wheatgrass through the skin which may slow the healing process and are better not used. It is also advisable to avoid all other skin preparations such as moisturisers, petroleum jelly, soap, zinc oxide etc. Just use clean, plain water to cleanse the wound.

In most cases, we are dealing with very fragile skin, so it is best to hasten slowly. Therefore, apply just a little spray AROUND the ulcer(s) (it doesn’t matter if the wound is sprayed as well) once a week only  – and persevere.

The reason for this is that the microcirculation on the floor of the ulcer can recover quite quickly forming new granulation tissue (new connective tissue cells and tiny blood vessels that form during the healing process). If one overtreats, this can lead to an increase in exudate (fluid containing protein and cellular debris) that can break down the surrounding skin, particularly if the skin is thin which is often the case in the elderly. Always bear in mind that a little wheatgrass goes a long way.

Concurrently, the skin surrounding the ulcer(s) tends to strengthen within several weeks which helps prevent skin damage from adhesive dressings, tape etc. and further degeneration of the ulcer edges.

As with any kind of ulcer treatment, responses can vary considerably, so a watchful and careful eye is needed. But this can be achieved readily by non-medically trained individuals in the home situation.

Prevention is better than cure

Although wheatgrass can facilitate leg ulcer healing, it is much better to prevent ulcers forming in the first place. This can be achieved simply by applying just a small amount of wheatgrass twice weekly to the shin area – the most vulnerable area on the lower legs.

Dr. Chris Reynolds.

>> Read more about healing leg ulcers with wheatgrass