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Leg Ulcers

What is a leg ulcer?

Leg or skin ulcers are wounds appearing on the surface of the skin. Venous stasis ulcers are shallow wounds, usually on the legs or ankles, that can be the result of insufficient or abnormal blood flow through veins. These raw, painful wounds may begin as a discolored or dark spot. They can be very slow to heal and should be promptly treated to prevent them from becoming infected.

Leg ulcers can indicate very severe stages of vein disease. More than 80 percent of patients who have leg ulcers also have an underlying vein disease. That’s why it’s so important that ulcers on the legs or ankles be evaluated as soon as possible.

Leg ulcer causes

Ulcers on the skin of the legs or ankles, sometimes referred to as venous stasis ulcers, can have a number of causes, but most are due to problems with the blood supply under the skin. In healthy veins, valves keep blood from backing up or pooling in the vein on its way to the heart. When these valves aren’t working as they should, or if outflow veins are blocked, high pressures occur in the superficial veins and cause fluid to leak into surrounding tissue, breaking it down and leading to an ulcer.

Both superficial and deep veins can fail as a result of disease or injury, leading to sores or breaks in the skin that may not heal as they should. Ulcers may start as purple or dark red spots, with the skin becoming dry and itchy, and the affected leg aching or swelling.

Venous ulcer risks

The same factors that can contribute to a wide range of vein disorders, such as varicose veins, can play a role in the development of leg ulcers. These include:

  • A lack of physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Activities that require long hours of standing
  • Deep vein thrombosis, in which clots develop in the leg’s deep veins

Leg ulcer treatments

The sooner a venous ulcer is evaluated by a doctor, the better the chances for successfully treating it with non- or minimally invasive procedures. Once an ulcer is diagnosed, treatment options may include:

  • Laser therapy that helps close the wound by removing the insufficient vein
  • Wearing compression stockings to help keep blood from pooling in the legs
  • Endovenous laser ablation to close varicose veins
  • Sclerotherapy, a nearly painless procedure to seal off veins
  • Ambulatory phlebectomy, a minimally invasive procedure often used along with endovenous laser ablation

If you have signs of venous leg ulcers, contact us to schedule an appointment. Our board-certified physicians will evaluate your vascular condition and recommend the best treatment options for you.

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