VENOUS ULCERS Q & A
What Are Venous Ulcers?
When a patient has venous disease, the inadequate blood flow can weaken the immune system, namely white blood cells. The combination of a weakened immune system plus venous insufficiency can lead to a buildup of toxins, especially in the inner ankle area of the legs. This, along with high venous pressure from blood flowing in the wrong direction, causes increased inflammation.
Chronic inflammation affects the skin and underlying tissues in the foot, ankle and/or lower leg, weakening them and breaking them down. Over time, as the tissue continues to weaken and break down, a small wound appears. If left untreated, the wound will continue to grow larger and more profound, with surrounding redness, swelling, tenderness and inflammation. This wound is called a venous ulcer.
If underlying diseased veins that produce the foot or leg ulcer are not identified or treated, ulcers tend to not heal properly and recur more often. Leg and foot ulcers may also become infected, which can prompt more serious health problems.
What Causes Venous Ulcers?
Vein problems like chronic venous insufficiency, which also cause varicose veins, are the most common causes of venous ulcers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Venous Ulcers Patient Education
How Do Venous Ulcers Develop?
In most cases, venous ulcers develop due to leg vein valve malfunction. With vein valve malfunction, blood tries to flow up towards the heart, but ends up flowing backwards and pooling, causing pressure. This is known as venous insufficiency.
If that pressure is not relieved, inflammation and a weakened immune system can cause skin cells to start dying. The broken down skin and tissue form a small wound, also called a venous ulcer. Chronic venous ulcers will grow larger and not properly heal, leading to infection and other problems.
What Are Venous Ulcer Symptoms?
Typically, venous ulcers develop in the lower leg, often above the ankle. They are usually identified by irregular borders with a red base.
Often patients show symptoms of venous insufficiency before developing venous ulcers. As venous insufficiency declines further, and venous ulcers present, symptoms may include:
- leg pain, swelling and tenderness
- a feeling of heaviness in the legs
- itchy legs and/or tired legs
- darkened skin above the ankle
- signs of infection around the wound, such as pus, drainage and/or odor
- other skin changes around the wound, including warm, shiny, and tight skin
What Are Risk Factors for Venous Ulcers?
Women tend to have leg ulcers more often than men. Risk factors that increase the chance of developing a venous ulcer also include:
- Vein insufficiency or varicose veins
- Family medical history
- Standing for long periods
- Not exercising enough
Some of these risk factors can be addressed with more physical activity, healthy eating, and other healthy life habits.
Why Are Diabetics at Risk?
The risk of venous ulcers is much higher for diabetics. First, diabetes causes reduced circulation. Second, diabetic peripheral neuropathy can cause numbness in the feet.
If patients cannot feel when they have injured feet, they do not know they need treatment. Poor circulation makes wounds slow to heal, creating the perfect conditions for venous ulcers to develop in the feet and legs of diabetics.
Do Patients Need Treatment?
Yes. If venous ulcers are left to fester, get infected and not heal, there can be significant consequences to the patient’s health, including the need to amputate. The underlying vein disease needs to be addressed so that venous ulcers do not recur.
How Are Venous Ulcers Treated?
Treatment for venous ulcers begins with a plan to improve circulation. This includes compression to relieve the built-up pressure and if possible, increasing physical activity. Physicians may also prescribe prescription medications.
Next, treatment will target the vein responsible for the foot or leg ulcer. Physicians will determine if ablation, microphlebectomy, or sclerotherapy is the optimal course of treatment for each patient’s situation.
Whichever action is taken, the goal is to redirect blood flow from the diseased, malfunctioning vein to healthier, working veins. Increasing blood flow, oxygen and nutrients to the affected, ulcerative leg means that healing—and relief from symptoms—can begin.
Specialized Patient Care
If you have foot or leg ulcers or sores, Dr. Jilbert Eradat can help. With expertise in diagnosing and treating venous ulcers, Dr. Eradat gives each patient individualized attention. Major insurance plans and Medicare accepted..