Venous Leg Ulcers

Close up of legs | Healthier Me TodayVenous ulcers are open sores that occur on the skin. They can occur on any area of the body but are most of the time found on the legs. These chronic sores don’t heal and keep recurring if you don’t get treatment. Usually, when you get injured, the body sends signals to the brain and the healing process begins. With ulcers, however, this doesn’t happen. Instead, the wound remains open for weeks. Venous leg ulcers develop due to poor circulation. The veins don’t push blood back to the heart as they should. Instead, blood backs up in the veins leading to pressure buildup. Most venous leg ulcers develop on the inside of the leg above the ankle. While these types of ulcers can affect anyone, they are more common in women. Early treatment is the only way of ensuring that life-threatening complications don’t occur. 

Types of Venous Leg Ulcers

Different types of chronic ulcers can affect the foot and leg. They include;

Venous Stasis Ulcers

These types of ulcers occur on the inside of the foot between the knee and ankle. They can affect one or both legs. They are the most common types of leg ulcers accounting for over 80% of all leg ulcer cases. Venous stasis ulcers appear red and are covered with yellow fibrous tissue. If the ulcer gets infected, a yellow or green discharge oozes out. The area bordering the sore will be irregular and the skin may either be swollen or discolored. The area may also feel hot or warm to the touch and depending on the degree of swelling it may be tight and shiny. 

Neurotrophic Ulcers

Also known as diabetic ulcers, neurotrophic ulcers occur at the bottom of the foot. This area has more pressure points. They can also occur in other areas of the foot especially in the case of trauma. These ulcers may appear red, pink, black, or brown if blood circulation is limited. Neurotrophic ulcers affect mostly diabetic patients and those with damaged nerves.

Arterial Ulcers

These types of ulcers occur on the heels and toe tips. They also occur in areas where toes rub against each other and where the bone protrudes out. They may also occur in the nail bed when a toenail cuts into the skin. Arterial ulcers appear yellow, grey, black, or brown. They also don’t bleed. These types of ulcers develop due to poor blood circulation. 

Symptoms of Venous Leg Ulcer

Venous leg ulcers are open and painful sores and take more than four weeks to heal. Other symptoms that may go with venous leg ulcers include;

  • Edema or swelling of the ankles
  • Skin discoloration or darkening around the sore
  • The skin around the ulcer may also harden which causes the leg to feel hard
  • Swelling and pain in the legs
  • Flaky, itchy, and scaly skin on the legs
  • Enlarged veins on the legs
  • A foul-smelling discharge if the ulcer becomes infected 

Diagnosis of Venous Leg Ulcer

If you have a venous leg ulcer, it won’t heal without treatment. Diagnosis depends on the symptoms and appearance of the ulcer. The doctor conducts a physical exam and may also order extra tests to determine the cause of the ulcer. Usually, a doctor can tell if you have a regular sore or a leg ulcer by looking at the area. The doctor may also order a CT scan, X-ray, MRI, or ultrasound. 

How to Treat Venous Leg Ulcer

Treating venous leg ulcers involves preventing infections and relieving pain. 

If the sore has produced a discharge, it means that it has already gotten infected. In that case, the doctor will put you on antibiotics.

If there is swelling, compression bandages help manage the swelling. They also close up the wound so that there is no infection. 

Sometimes the wound may lead to mobility issues. In such a case, you may need braces or orthotics to help you walk. 

The doctor may also put you under medications to improve blood circulation and prevent blood clotting. Such medications include pentoxifylline and aspirin. 

How to Live With and Manage Venous Leg Ulcer

If you have a leg ulcer, preventing infection and recurrence should be your top priority. First of all, if you suspect that you may have a venous ulcer, see a doctor immediately. Treatment involves improving circulation and correcting vein problems causing fluid to build up. Either way;

  • Clean the ulcer regularly to prevent infection
  • Dress the wound
  • Stay away from products that may cause your skin to be overly sensitive 
  • Wear compression bandages or stockings to ensure that blood doesn’t pool in the legs
  • Take medications as prescribed and apply ointment to treat infections 

To prevent venous leg ulcers in the first place, you need to ensure that you keep vein problems at bay. This means making hard but necessary lifestyle changes like;

  • Avoiding smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Moving around from time to time especially if you spend most of your day standing or sitting 
  • Elevating your legs for a few minutes daily if you don’t move a lot

FAQ

  1. Who is at risk of venous leg ulcers? Your risk of developing leg ulcers increases if you have had deep vein thrombosis or knee and hip replacement surgeries. You are also at risk if you have difficulties walking due to an injury, obesity, osteoarthritis, and paralysis. 
  2. What happens if a venous leg ulcer isn’t untreated?  Most of the time the ulcer becomes infected and pus will start oozing out. In severe cases, this infection may spread to the bone leading to even more complications. If you have a wound that won’t heal, go see a doctor immediately. 

Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!

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