Here’s what you should know about this condition and its treatments.
A venous ulcer is a chronic (non-healing) wound that forms on the leg, ankle or foot as a result of poor vein function. Venous ulcers, also known as stasis ulcers, account for 80% of lower extremity ulcerations.
Typically, when you get a nick or a cut on your leg, your body begins the healing process immediately. The veins in the legs and feet deliver oxygen-rich blood to the area, bathing the wound in red blood cells which help create collagen. Granulation tissue begins to form, filling the wound and helping it close as new skin cells are regenerated. After about 3 weeks, the wound is completely closed and healed.
Venous insufficiency or disease alters the normal wound healing process.
When veins aren’t functioning properly, the valves in the veins don’t open and close in an efficient manner. This prevents blood from flowing freely in both directions--from the heart to the legs and back again. As a result, the blood pressure inside lower-extremity veins remains high. With blood pooling in these veins, nutrient-rich oxygen and blood cells can’t reach damaged tissues in a normal fashion. If you have a wound on your leg, ankle or foot, chronic venous insufficiency can cause significant issues with wound healing.
These issues can cause a small cut to transform in a larger open wound known as an ulcer.
The cause of venous leg ulcers is poor vein function in the legs. Disease, blood clots (deep vein thrombosis), and even inactivity can contribute to venous insufficiency.
The key risk factors for developing venous leg ulcers include:
Older age (1 in 50 people aged 80 or older)
Having multiple pregnancies
Having varicose veins
Previous leg injury
Phlebitis (vein inflammation)
Inactivity (sitting or standing for long periods of time)
The main symptoms associated with a venous leg ulcer include:
Itchy, burning or stinging skin around a wound
A rash near the wound
Brown or bruised-looking skin around the wound
Foul-smelling discharge from the wound
Signs of infection (fever, worsening wound pain, increased redness and swelling)
If you suspect you have a leg ulcer, check for a shallow, non-healed wound that is red at the base. You may also see a yellowish film or tissue surrounding the wound. The skin may appear tight or shiny and may feel hot to the touch.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to visit a healthcare professional immediately, as infection may be setting up in the wound.
Typically, venous leg ulcers do not heal without specialized treatment at a healthcare facility.
The most common treatments for venous leg ulcers include:
Compression Therapy - Compression devices, like compression stockings or bandages, is the first line treatment for venous leg ulcers, however many ulcers return once compression therapy is discontinued.
Advanced Wound Care - Foam dressings, antimicrobials, and antiseptics, as well as skin grafting for advanced, non-healing wounds
Surgical Intervention - Debridement, endovenous thermal ablation, sclerotherapy, and other surgical treatment methods may be recommended for venous leg ulcers that do not heal after traditionally treatment
If you suffer from chronic venous insufficiency, it’s important to seek treatment immediately.
A trusted, reliable vein care partner is an essential part of healthy vein function and maintaining a good quality of life.
Georgia Vascular Institute is a premier provider of vein disease diagnosis, treatment and ongoing care in Georgia.
Contact us today to make your appointment.