Understanding Venous Leg Ulcers

Understanding Venous Leg UlcersVenous leg ulcers are a type of skin ulcer that causes a shallow wound to develop on the skin of the legs. These wounds are slow to heal and will often return if not treated properly. If you develop a venous leg ulcer then you will probably experience symptoms such as:

  • Dark red or purple coloration on the skin
  • Thick or hardened skin
  • Swollen ankles
  • Aching or swelling of the legs
  • Red, flaky and itchy skin
  • Discharge from the wound
  • Chronic pain in the affected leg(s)

Causes of Venous Leg Ulcers

Venous skin ulcers develop because of poor blood circulation in the legs. If your veins are blocked or damaged blood will begin pool and the pressure will further damage your blood vessels beneath the skin. Because of this, your skin can easily break and the accumulated blood can then leak out of the damaged vein into the surrounding tissue. This leads to an ulcer on the skin.

These ulcers are most commonly a complication from existing and untreated varicose veins in the legs.

Who is at Risk for Venous Leg Ulcers?

There are a variety of factors that can increase your chances of developing venous leg ulcers such as:

  • Inactivity. If you are seated or not able to move for an extended period of time your calf muscles will weaken. This could affect the circulation in your legs.
  • Obesity. Obesity increases the risk of high pressure in your legs.
  • Varicose veins. Varicose veins are damaged, twisted and enlarged veins, making you more susceptible to ulcers.
  • Deep vein thrombosis. If you have previously been diagnosed with DVT your valves could be damaged.
  • Previous injury. An injury such as a broken bone or fracture can lead to blood clots and deep vein thrombosis.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you develop a venous leg ulcer, it is important to seek treatment from your doctor so that the wound does not become infected. Your doctor will remove any dead tissue from the wound and then cover it with a dressing that will be changed frequently. On top of the dressing, you will have to wear compression bandages to improve the circulation in your affected leg. The healing process can sometimes be painful and your doctor may prescribe a mild painkiller for any discomfort.

Once your ulcer has healed, it is advised to continue wearing compression stockings to help regulate your blood flow. Other methods of improving blood circulation are:

  • Walking daily
  • Elevating your legs when seated or lying down
  • Avoiding sitting for extended periods of time without a break

If your ulcer doesn’t heal or is reoccurring then your doctor may move onto other treatments such as medication, skin grafting or other vein surgeries and procedures.

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