Venous Stasis Ulcers

Venous Stasis Ulcers are wounds that are thought to occur due to improper functioning of venous valves, usually of the legs (hence leg ulcers).  They are a major cause of chronic wounds, occurring in 70% to 90% of leg ulcer cases.  Venous ulcers develop mostly along the medial distal leg, and can be very painful.

CAUSES

The exact cause of venous ulcers is not certain, but they are thought to arise when venous valves that exist to prevent backflow of blood do not function properly, causing the pressure in veins to increase.  The increase in pressure and buildup of fluid prevents nutrients and oxygen from getting to tissues.

AV Venous_ulcer_dorsal_leg

SYMPTOMS

Venous stasis ulcers are often an early sign of venous insufficiency. When blood pools in the veins of the lower leg, fluid and blood cells leak out into the skin and other tissues. This can cause itchy, thin skin and lead to skin changes.  Most venous stasis ulcers develop on either side of the lower leg, above the ankle and below the calf.

Signs and symptoms can include:

  • Leg swelling, heaviness, and cramping
  • Dark red, purple, brown, hardened skin (this is a sign that blood is pooling)
  • Itching and tingling
  • Shallow sore with a red base, sometimes covered by yellow tissue
  • Unevenly shaped borders
  • Surrounding skin may be shiny, tight, warm or hot, and discolored
  • Leg pain
  • If the sore becomes infected, it may have a bad odor and pus may drain from the wound

 

TREATMENT

It is important to contact a doctor with the right medical background when you first notice the signs of a venous skin ulcer, because you may be able to prevent the ulcer from forming. If an ulcer has formed, get treatment right away, because new and smaller ulcers tend to heal faster than larger ones.

Compression stockings or bandages help prevent blood from pooling in your legs.  If an ulcer doesn’t heal within a few months, other treatments might include:

  • Medicine to speed healing or get rid of an infection (antibiotics).
  • Skin grafting, which may be needed for deep or hard-to-heal ulcers.
  • Vein surgery, which may keep ulcers from coming back.

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