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Family Foot & Ankle

Puncture Wounds

Risk of Puncture WoundsOuch!

Maybe you were working on a construction site and inadvertently stepped on a nail, or perhaps a walk on the beach painfully introduced to a jagged rock, broken seashell, or shattered glass. Just thinking about puncture wounds can make your skin crawl.

Unfortunately, this kind of foot trauma is fairly common, with most of us experiencing at least a minor case at some point in our lives. They can be quite painful, and also can easily lead to infection, so prompt attention is required.

Why Puncture Wounds Are Different

You may be tempted to treat all “broken skin” wounds the same, but in reality puncture wounds are fundamentally different than scrapes and cuts, and require a separate approach. While a cut tears the skin and often produces a lot of bleeding, these wounds rarely do on account of the small entry hole.

However, they pose a much greater risk of infection and complications. Unlike with cuts, you may not be able to easily estimate how severe the damage is—a deep puncture may have caused significant damage to muscles, tendons, or other below-the-surface tissues. The injury is also very likely to leave foreign particles in the wound, in places you can’t access yourself. This greatly increases the risk of an infection if immediate treatment is not sought.

First Aid for a Wound

Your first step after a puncture wound is to stop the bleeding using a clean cloth and gentle pressure. Once that’s under control, rinse the area using clean water. If there are any small particles still near the surface, remove them using a tweezers sterilized with alcohol.

Next, clean the whole area using soap, water, and a clean cloth. Dry and apply an antibiotic cream, then bandage the area. You’ll need to replace the bandage at least once per day (more often if it gets wet or dirty) and keep checking for any signs of infection.

When to See Your Podiatrist

For a puncture wound on your foot, you should see us at Family Foot and Ankle Center right away—ideally within 24 hours. Cleaning the wound quickly and thoroughly is the best way to avoid painful complications.

Our experienced doctors will perform a thorough check for any foreign bodies, cleaning the entire wound along its full depth. If necessary, we’ll fully numb the area to ensure you don’t feel any discomfort, and take an X-ray to ensure that all particles have been removed. There’s also a good chance we’ll want to set you up with an antibiotic, especially in cases where the infection risk is high.

Other measures may be taken depending on the circumstances—for example, we’ll ask you when you had your last tetanus shot, or if the puncture was from an animal bite we’ll recommend vaccination for rabies. Significant tissue or bone damage may necessitate further treatment methods as well.

Follow-Through Is Important

Quick care drastically reduces the odds of complications, but unfortunately, even if you’ve received thorough treatment and followed all your doctor’s post-care instructions, the wound may still get infected. That’s why it’s critical to keep a close eye on your wound until it has fully healed.

If you develop a fever or notice soreness, swelling, warmth, drainage, or other painful symptoms that do not improve or have returned, you should have the area re-checked. If symptoms persist for a week or more, it could be evidence that an infection has spread to deeper tissues, such as bone—don’t wait for a minor infection to become a major one!

Puncture wounds are a serious matter. Don’t leave the health of your feet to chance. Call Family Foot and Ankle Center in Ohio at (513) 728-4800, or in Northern Kentucky at (859) 282-1572, to set up an appointment today. You can also reach us online.

Dr. Cynthia Miller
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Dr. Cynthia Miller is a board certified podiatrist who has been established in the Cincinnati area since 2004.