Treating and Preventing Venous Ulcers
Venous ulcers are a rare complication of varicose veins and other chronic venous insufficiencies — luckily, they’re relatively easy to prevent.
A venous ulcer is a shallow sore on the skin caused by an untreated venous insufficiency. These wounds most often develop on the lower legs and ankles, though they can occur anywhere. The most common symptoms include pain, inflammation, a sense of heaviness, and significant discoloration of the affected skin.
If left untreated, venous ulcers can emit an unpleasant odor and generate pus, causing patients significant distress and discomfort. Fortunately, they can be easily treated with some simple preventative measures. We’ll walk you through their most common cause and outline some measures you can take to treat and prevent them.
While their precise cause is still unknown, venous ulcers are most likely the result of poor circulation between the veins and the heart. This venous insufficiency is usually caused by a breakdown of the valves in a vein. As these valves collapse, they prevent the veins from effectively pumping blood back to heart, causing blood to gather in a vein or leak into the surrounding tissues. Since this pooling blood increases pressure on the veins, it encourages ulceration.
The first step to treating a venous ulcer is improving circulation in the affected limb. When resting, patients should elevate the affected leg to reduce swelling and force excess blood back towards the heart. They should also wear compression garments in order to reduce the quantity of blood pooling in the legs. In addition, walking daily can promote blood flow. Regardless of its severity, your doctor will likely dress and clean the wound in order to prevent infection.
More severe ulcers can be surgically treated with an ablation or sclerotherapy. These minimally invasive procedures will correct the underlying venous insufficiency, reducing the risk of future occurrences. In some cases, your doctor may also need to remove dead skin around the affected area or apply a skin graft to it.
Since venous ulcers are often the result of a chronic venous insufficiency, the most effective way to prevent them is to treat the insufficiency. Wearing compression stockings, elevating your legs, and regularly exercising will dramatically reduce your risk of developing venous ulcers. Since these wounds often recur after healing, patients with a history of them should take particular care in following their treatment plan.
Venous ulcers are rare, but they can have serious effects on your circulation. If you think you might be at a greater risk of developing them, contact a vein specialist today and discuss your possible courses of treatment.