Wearing a cast can result in numerous complications with either the cast itself or the area of the body the cast is protecting. By adhering to proper cast care instructions, many of these risks can be minimized.
However, if cast complications occur, they typically result in noticeable signs that, in many cases, warrant a visit to your doctor or the emergency room.
It’s normal to experience some itching underneath your cast. Itching can also result from wetness, which may occur even if you use a waterproof cast liner. Regardless of the cause, itching presents an uncomfortable conundrum. It’s not recommended to poke an object under the cast to scratch as this can cause skin injury and infection. Additionally, this action may also cause damage to the cast padding material. Instead, try some of these approaches:
- If the edges of the cast are causing skin irritation, cover them with medical tape or additional cast padding material.
- Direct cool air underneath the cast using a fan or hair dryer.
- Use an anti-itching spray formulated for use under casts, which can help quell itching, eliminate odors and cool your skin.
- Hold a covered ice pack over the nearest area of exposed skin.
- If wearing a waterproof cast, rinse with soap and water.
Pressure sores may develop from a cast, particularly on bony areas. These are caused by prolonged pressure on the skin, which may be from an overly tight cast. Water permeating the cast material can exacerbate these, so a waterproof cast liner is often recommended. Signs of pressure sores include:
- Foul odors
- Unexplained stains on the cast
If you notice any of these signs, see your doctor immediately.
Compartment syndrome is a serious potential complication, and it can occur even if you follow proper cast care instructions This is typically due to an excessively tight cast that may be a result of swelling, and it results in pressure inside of the cast that limits blood flow to the extremity. Symptoms include:
- Reduced blood flow to fingers, toes or other areas below the cast, usually accompanied by a bluish tint, paleness and coldness of the skin
- Severe pain
- Tingling or loss of sensation
- Difficulty moving nearby joints
Compartment syndrome is condition that warrants emergency medical attention and must be addressed immediately.
Signs and symptoms of other complications include:
- Raw, red skin around the cast edges
- Excessive swelling
- Stinging or burning sensations
- Foul odors
- Soft spots or cracks in the cast
If you notice any of these symptoms associated with your cast, talk to your doctor right away or go to the ER.