How to Check for Leg Ulcers at Home

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
Blog How To Check For Leg Ulcers At Home

Leg ulcers are a common and often painful condition that can significantly impact a person's quality of life. They are typically caused by poor circulation, injury, or underlying health conditions such as chronic venous insufficiency. Early detection and treatment are crucial in managing leg ulcers and preventing complications. In this blog, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to check for leg ulcers at home, including the signs and symptoms to look out for and when to seek medical attention.

What is a Leg Ulcer?

Before we delve into how to check for leg ulcers at home, we must first understand what ulcers are. Leg ulcers are a break in the skin of the leg that allows air and bacteria to get into the underlying tissue. This causes open sores or wounds that fester and fail to heal within a reasonable time frame. Ulcers commonly occur on the lower leg or foot and can be caused by various factors, including venous insufficiency, arterial disease, diabetes, and obesity.

What Are the Different Types and Causes of Leg Ulcers?

Leg ulcers are a common yet often misunderstood condition that can significantly impact one's quality of life. Understanding the different types of leg ulcers and their underlying causes is crucial for effective management and treatment. The different types of leg ulcers include:

Venous Ulcers

Venous stasis ulcers stem from chronic venous insufficiency, a leg condition where malfunctioning valves in leg veins lead to the pooling of blood and increased pressure, damaging surrounding tissues. These ulcers typically occur around the ankles and are characterized by shallow, painful wounds with irregular edges. Chronic venous hypertension, inflammation, and impaired tissue oxygenation contribute to their persistence.

In a study called “No More Venous Ulcers—What More Can We Do?,” as reported by the National Library of Medicine (NIH), venous ulcers account for approximately 70 percent to 90 percent of all leg ulcers. Venous leg ulcers need prompt diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and management to prevent complications and improve healing outcomes.

The venous expert centers at the Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) specialize in diagnosing and treating venous disorders and play a crucial role in managing venous leg ulcers, which are among the most common types.

Arterial Ulcers

Caused by poor blood circulation in the arteries, arterial ulcers result from poor blood circulation due to arterial insufficiency, commonly associated with peripheral artery disease. These ulcers typically manifest on the lower extremities, especially over bony prominences, and present as deep, painful wounds with well-defined edges. Decreased oxygenation and impaired tissue perfusion hinder wound healing.

According to the Circulation Foundation, about 15 percent of leg ulcers result from arterial disease.

The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) underscores the importance of revascularization and wound care strategies tailored to improve arterial circulation for effective arterial ulcer management. According to the Cleveland Clinic, revascularization refers to a group of medical procedures, both surgery and minimally invasive, that restore blood flow to parts of the heart when that flow is limited or blocked.

Neuropathic Ulcers

These leg wounds result from nerve damage, often due to conditions such as diabetes, as well as injuries, infections, and exposure to toxins. Nerve damage can lead to a lack of sensation in the feet in a condition called peripheral neuropathy, which makes it easier for injuries to occur and go unnoticed. Minor wounds left untreated can progress into ulcers over time.

    It's essential to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment, as the approach to managing each type of ulcer may vary.

    What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Leg Ulcer?

    • Skin Changes: Look for any changes in the skin on your legs, such as redness, discoloration, or a rash. The skin may also appear shiny or tight.
    • Pain and Discomfort: Leg ulcers can be accompanied by pain, aching, or a feeling of heaviness in the affected area.
    • Swelling: Persistent swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet may indicate an underlying issue that could lead to the development of leg ulcers.
    • Wound Appearance: If you notice any open sores or wounds on your legs that are slow to heal, it's essential to monitor them closely for signs of ulceration.
    • Odor and Discharge: An unpleasant odor or unusual discharge from a wound may indicate an infection associated with a leg ulcer.

    Self-Examination Techniques for Leg Ulcers

    To check for leg ulcers at home, follow these steps:

    1. Inspect Your Legs: Sit or stand in a well-lit area and carefully examine your legs for any signs of skin changes, wounds, or discoloration. Use a mirror to check the back of your legs and feet if necessary.
    2. Palpate the Skin: Gently feel the skin on your legs for any areas that are warm to the touch, tender, or have an unusual texture.
    3. Check for Swelling: Press your finger against the skin on your lower legs and feet. If the indentation remains after you release the pressure, it could indicate swelling related to an underlying issue.
    4. Monitor Wounds: If you have any existing wounds or sores, keep track of their healing progress. If they show signs of deterioration or fail to heal within a few weeks, consult a healthcare professional immediately. A healthcare provider can conduct a thorough assessment and determine the underlying cause of the problem. Early intervention is critical to preventing complications and promoting effective wound healing.

    Center for Vein Restoration’s board-certified physicians are venous experts specializing in diagnosing and treating venous disorders. For some patients, minimally invasive outpatient procedures such as endovenous thermal ablation or ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy may be recommended to close off or remove dysfunctional veins, thereby reducing venous hypertension and promoting healing.

    Call 240-965-3915 to speak to a Patient Services Representative or schedule your consultation online at a CVR near you today.

    What Should I Do If I Suspect That I Have a Leg Ulcer?

    Prompt and proper care is essential for healing a leg ulcer and preventing complications. If you suspect that you have a leg ulcer, taking prompt action is crucial for your health and recovery.

    Here are the steps you should follow if you suspect that you have a leg ulcer:

    Seek Medical Attention: Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider or a wound care specialist as soon as possible. Getting a professional evaluation to confirm the diagnosis and understand the type of ulcer and its cause is essential.

    Call 240-965-3915 to speak to a Patient Services Representative or schedule your consultation online at a CVR near you today.

    Monitor for Signs of Infection: While waiting for your appointment, watch for signs of infection around the ulcer, such as increased redness, warmth, swelling, foul odor, or discharge. If you notice any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

    Keep the Area Clean: Gently clean the area with mild soap and water to prevent infection. However, avoid applying any over-the-counter creams or remedies until you've seen a doctor, as some products may not be suitable for ulcer treatment.

    Elevate Your Leg: If possible, keep your leg elevated above the level of your heart. This can help reduce swelling and improve blood flow, which is beneficial for healing.

    Avoid Pressure: Avoid putting pressure on the affected area to prevent further irritation or damage. Use cushions or specialized support if needed to keep weight off the ulcer.

    Follow Your Doctor's Instructions: After your assessment, your doctor may prescribe medication and dressings or recommend specific wound care procedures. Following their advice closely is crucial for effective healing.

    By educating yourself about leg ulcers, including their causes and prevention strategies, you can better manage your condition and prevent future occurrences. Our best advice: Always follow healthcare professionals' guidance for the best wound care outcomes.

    Trust Center for Vein Restoration with Your Venous Ulcer

    The venous experts at Center for Vein Restoration vein physicians will begin with a thorough assessment of your medical history and symptoms and a physical examination of the affected leg. They may use duplex ultrasonography, a non-invasive imaging test, to assess vein function and blood flow, identifying any venous insufficiency.

    Based on the evaluation, your CVR expert diagnoses the type of leg ulcer and determines the underlying venous issues contributing to the ulcer. Your CVR physician will then develop a personalized treatment plan to heal the ulcer, improve venous circulation, and prevent recurrence.

    Call 240-965-3915 to speak to a Patient Services Representative or schedule your consultation online at a CVR near you today.

    CVR accepts many insurances, including Aetna, Amerigroup, Anthem, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cigna, MultiPlan, Medicaid, Medicare, and more.

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