Individuals with sickle cell anemia are prone to developing leg ulcers, the most common cutaneous manifestation of sickle cell anemia. An ulcer, in general, is defined as a break in the skin that allows for the exposure of bacteria and air to the underlying tissues. Sickle cell anemia can cause a simple skin laceration on the leg to develop into a full-blown infected ulcer. This happens because the irregularly shaped sickle cells cause blockages in blood vessels and inhibit proper blood circulation to the skin tear. This effectively allows any bacteria to invade, replicate, and grow in the tear until it is fully infected. Leg ulcers in individuals with sickle cell anemia can take up to sixteen times longer to heal than leg ulcers that occur from other causes. The lack of proper circulation prevents the body's natural healing factors from having sufficient access to the site of the ulcer. When components of the body's defense and natural healing mechanisms cannot access the site of the infection, they are not able to work together and do their job to heal the infected wound. The best way for an individual with sickle cell anemia to prevent these ulcers is to stimulate circulation with compression stockings and leg elevation, limit salt intake, wear protective clothing on the legs, and use insect repellant.
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