What Are Chronic Leg Ulcers? June is Wound Awareness Month
Is that sore on your leg not going away? Now is the time for treatment.
June is Wound Healing Awareness Month. According to Healogics, a network of wound treatment centers in the U.S., roughly 7 million Americans live with a chronic wound. Twelve percent of that number were diagnosed with a venous stasis ulcer or a sore on the leg.
Chronic venous insufficiency, also known as vein disease, is the leading cause of slow-healing leg ulcers that typically develop on the inside of the ankle. The shallow sore has uneven edges, and the surrounding skin may feel tight and appear discolored. Left untreated, the ulcer could become infected as indicated by foul-smelling pus running from the wound, making it more difficult to treat and could even lead to amputation. If the leg ulcer doesn’t resolve itself in two weeks, it’s time to see your doctor for treatment.
What Causes Venous Ulcers?
Veins are tiny valves that push blood back to the heart. Sometimes, those valves malfunction and blood backs up in the veins, leading to venous hypertension. As the pressure and fluid build-up in the veins, restorative oxygen cannot reach the tissues and skin. Eventually, a wound breaks through the skin. Before the wound appears, the skin may become swollen, itchy, and discolored.
Chronic leg wounds don’t usually cause pain. However, if the sore becomes infected, it could become painful.
Certain conditions can put you at higher risk of a leg ulcer. These include varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in the leg veins), as well as trauma or surgery to the leg, such as a fracture or hip replacement. Obesity and smoking also are risk factors.
Your doctor will observe the wound to make a diagnosis. He or she may also order imaging tests to assess the blood flow through your veins better. Tests could include an ultrasound or venography (an X-ray of your veins after a contrasting dye has been injected into the vein). Proper diagnosis is essential to rule out other underlying conditions, such as diabetes or peripheral arterial disease, which require different treatment methods.
Treating Chronic Leg Ulcers
The first step of treatment for a venous ulcer is to regularly cleanse and wrap the wound, making sure to keep the skin around the wound dry. Your doctor will instruct you on proper wound care.
Your doctor may further ask that you wear compression stockings over the wound to promote efficient blood flow and healing in the area. However, it should be noted that compression stockings are not recommended for those with arterial disease, so a doctor’s consultation is necessary. Antibiotics may also be prescribed for an infected wound, but antibiotics alone will not cure the ulcer. Debridement, or the removal of dead skin, may also speed healing.
Because having one chronic wound raises your chances of another, prevention is key. Losing weight, exercising, quitting smoking, and elevating your legs as often as possible are proven at-home methods to prevent venous leg ulcers. Sitting or standing for long periods exacerbates the effects of poor circulation too, so try to stay active with frequent walks and simple exercises like flexing your ankles. If you have other chronic diseases, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, be sure to manage those conditions to keep your skin and veins healthy. With proper treatment by a specialist, the sore should heal within three to four months.
We’re the Vein Specialists
Center for Vein Restoration physicians have treated thousands of patients with chronic venous ulcers. One way to treat these leg ulcers is to address the underlying cause, such as varicose veins. CVR offers several surgical procedures to give you the peace of mind that comes with healthier skin and improved vein health. Contact us today for a consultation.