Top Four Causes of Leg Ulcers

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
Woman with varicose veins applying

Leg ulcers can be excruciating and debilitating. But understanding these four common causes can help you get the treatment you need.

Leg ulcers affect about one percent of the U.S. population, rising to four percent for people over age 65. Because these sores can become painful and difficult to treat, they can severely impact a person’s quality of life. As such, treating leg ulcers as soon as possible is best. By understanding the top causes of leg ulcers and how to prevent them, you can get the treatment you need to cure the wound and restore your leg health.

The top four causes of leg ulcers

Circulation not only keeps blood flowing in your veins and arteries. It also helps your body recover after a cut or bruise by delivering nourishing blood to the area. However, when blood flow is blocked, healing nutrients cannot reach the skin tissue, causing a wound to worsen. If the sore doesn’t resolve within two weeks, it can become a leg ulcer that requires further medical treatment.

Your doctor will do a thorough health assessment to determine the exact cause. Yet it’s likely your leg ulcer is a result of one of these four conditions:

Chronic venous insufficiency. Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a condition marked by improper blood flow in the leg veins. Tiny valves in your leg veins move blood back to the heart. If those valves weaken, blood pools in the vein, leading to extreme swelling and high blood pressure in the vein. The trapped blood causes the skin to break open into a sore, known as a venous ulcer.

About 80 percent of leg ulcers can be attributed to CVI. Commonly appearing on the inner ankle, venous ulcers are painful and are usually surrounded by flaky, discolored skin. The ulcers may also emit a discharge.

Diabetes. Having diabetes can interfere with the healing process. When blood sugar levels get too high, fatty deposits in the blood vessels restrict circulation and damage the nerves. Because nerve damage leads to diabetic neuropathy, or a reduced sensation in the extremities, people with diabetes may not realize they have an ulcer until it's too late.

Peripheral artery disease. People with diabetes or heart disease are at greater risk of developing peripheral artery disease (PAD), a buildup of plaque in the arteries. The narrowed arteries prevent nourishing blood from reaching the skin as a wound forms. Arterial ulcers typically develop on the outer side of the ankle, feet, heels, or toes. They are painful and have a “punched out” appearance.

High blood pressure. The constant pressure caused by chronic hypertension cuts off the blood supply to the skin, leading to dead skin and, eventually, sores. A hypertension-linked sore is called a Martorell’s ulcer.

Taking care of your leg ulcer

Leg ulcers can be challenging to treat. But it’s not impossible with the help of a board-certified vascular specialist.

Treatment for venous ulcers requires keeping the wound clean and changing dressings frequently. Your physician may also do a debridement to clean away dead skin. Antibiotics may be needed to clear an infection, as well. Compression therapy with stockings or tight bandages can improve blood flow in the leg veins and promote healing.

According to one study, venous leg ulcers have a high recurrence rate of 37 percent. Therefore, it’s vital to prevent another one from forming. After the venous ulcer heals, wear compression stockings and elevate your legs regularly to boost circulation.

Since CVI is a significant cause of leg ulcers, seek treatment when you first notice leg swelling, pain, cramping, and, most importantly, varicose veins. Several minimally invasive surgical procedures can effectively eliminate varicose veins by collapsing them. Eventually, the body absorbs the treated vein as blood diverts to healthy veins. Your skin can then heal.

Keep your veins and skin healthy!

Center for Vein Restoration’s board-certified physicians are skilled in treating varicose veins and all vascular disorders, including leg ulcers. Talk to one of our doctors about your treatment options for varicose veins to prevent complications, such as leg ulcers. Even if you already have a venous ulcer, we have the experience and tools to treat your sore and heal your skin.

Contact your nearest CVR location today to schedule a consultation or speak to a representative. You may also schedule online at your convenience.

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