What Does the Start of a Venous Ulcer Look Like?

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
Application of elastic compression

Knowing how to identify the signs of a venous ulcer in its earliest stages gives you the best chance of a speedy cure.

Several complications may follow when blood fails to circulate efficiently through the leg veins. A protruding varicose vein is one of the most visible and common side effects of venous insufficiency, the medical term for blocked circulation in the leg veins. But a venous ulcer is one of the more severe consequences of untreated venous insufficiency.

Once a venous ulcer forms, it won’t go away on its own. It’ll require treatment by a board-certified vein specialist, such as one at Center for Vein Restoration. The longer treatment is delayed, the longer the ulcer will take to heal. As such, it’s important to know what the start of a venous ulcer looks like so you can seek treatment as soon as possible.

What causes a venous ulcer?

Proper blood circulation relies on tiny valves in the leg veins that move blood upward to the heart. If the valves weaken and can no longer effectively open and shut, blood pools, causing pressure to build inside the veins. This process is known as venous reflux and can lead to pain, swelling, cramping, heaviness, itchy skin, and varicose veins. The risk of developing a venous ulcer increases, especially with age. According to one study, between one percent to three percent of people over 65 have experienced a venous ulcer.

“How do the valves weaken?” you may be wondering. Age, gender, heredity, and lifestyle factors such as obesity and lack of exercise can stress the veins, causing the valves to lose strength. In addition, an injury to the vein or being immobile for extended periods may contribute to venous reflux.

How to recognize the initial symptoms of a venous ulcer

When blood pools in the veins, it cannot reach the skin. Skin deprived of nutrient-filled blood becomes vulnerable to ulcers. A venous ulcer may take weeks to develop, but there are usually symptoms before the actual wound breaks out, such as:

Inflamed skin. Red, inflamed skin is usually the first sign of an ulcer. The patch may appear similar to a bruise or bug bite, except it doesn’t heal quickly. The leg may also feel achy, swollen, and heavy. You may not think these changes will result in an ulcer, but getting checked out by a vein specialist at this early stage is a good idea.

Open sore. As the blood pressure within the vein mounts, the skin around it begins to break open. Eventually, the sore deepens with irregular edges. The skin around the ulcer will feel tight and warm and appear shiny. At this point, the ulcer may emit a foul-smelling odor if it has become infected.

How to treat a venous ulcer

As mentioned earlier, a venous ulcer will not heal by itself. Treatment will include a combination of these therapies:

Keeping the wound clean and dry. Your doctor will show you how and when to clean the dressing. And it’s important to always keep the skin around the ulcer dry.

Compression therapy. Compression therapy maintains efficient blood flow so the wound can heal better.

Elevating your legs. Propping your legs on a pillow drains the blood from the leg veins and prevents excessive pooling.

Getting prompt treatment can prevent an infection. But if the ulcer becomes infected, your doctor can prescribe an antibiotic.

Having one venous ulcer raises your risk of another. If you know your risk factors, you can take measures to head off a recurrence. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and wearing compression stockings all promote circulation and lessen the risk of a venous ulcer. You’ll also benefit from lowering your blood pressure and quitting cigarettes.

But you don’t have to wait for a venous ulcer to appear to start treatment. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of venous insufficiency, such as swelling, pain, skin changes, and varicose veins, consult a vein specialist about treatment options. Today’s minimally invasive vein procedures collapse damaged veins so blood can reroute to healthier veins. Once circulation is restored, your skin will look smooth and healthy again.

Know the signs of venous ulcer and get treatment today

A venous ulcer can be painful and debilitating, but you can find treatment at a Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) office near you. Our board-certified physicians have years of experience successfully treating venous ulcers, varicose veins, and other vascular disorders. We can cure your venous ulcer and get you back to living your best life.

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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