Normally, mild injuries and wounds, such as scrapes, lacerations, and bruises, heal with time. The average time it takes for people to recover from injuries varies, but there is a limit that, when exceeded, typically indicates a deficiency in the process. Some wounds, such as venous stasis ulcers, take longer than expected to heal. In many cases, medical treatment, activity modifications, and wound management are necessary for those affected to recover completely. Without proper treatment, venous stasis ulcers can become worse and more uncomfortable to live with.
How Do Venous Stasis Ulcers Develop?
Venous stasis ulcers are a sign of venous insufficiency. According to the National Library of Medicine, it’s a medical concern that impacts up to three percent of seniors and one percent of the general population. Many of the veins affected are deep in the legs and are responsible for delivering oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the heart. When they become weak or damaged, the valves that regulate blood flow malfunction and become unable to sustain proper blood circulation, making it difficult for leg, ankle, and foot wounds or ulcers to heal.
There are three primary causes of venous stasis ulcers:
Venous insufficiency is when the proper flow of blood from the perforating veins deep in the legs to the superficial veins of the heart is compromised or restricted. This is also known as deep vein insufficiency and is a common cause of chronic venous congestion. DVT and obesity are the most common risk factors.
Oedema occurs when fluid from the capillaries or tiny blood vessels leaks and accumulates in the lower extremities, causing swelling, pain, and poor circulation. Poor body mechanics and inflammatory conditions are common risk factors.
Venous hypertension develops when the pressure inside of the veins is elevated. This type of hypertension is a common side effect of smoking, obesity, standing for long periods, and a lack of exercise.
The longer damaged veins remain unable to sustain proper circulation, the greater the risk of back-flowing blood that adds additional pressure to the affected limb. Wounds that develop in affected places of the leg, most notably the ankles, tend to have significant healing impairments. Venous stasis wounds or ulcers of the legs, ankles, and feet can become infected, increasing the risk of complications.
Venous Stasis Ulcer Causes and Risk Factors
Venous stasis wounds can appear anywhere on the body. But, due to various factors, they typically develop on the lower extremities, near the bony, non-fleshy areas. Many people are at risk of developing due to the following causes.
Age: Growing older is unavoidable, and with it comes a decline in skin and vein elasticity. Aging also affects the valves, veins, and arteries responsible for regulating blood flow. As the effects of age decrease vein efficiency, the risks of developing venous stasis ulcers increase.
Abnormal vein changes (varicosities): Many people at risk of venous leg and ankle ulcers have unusual or uncommon vein structure changes that compromise the function and condition of the valves that control blood flow. Inflammation of the veins (phlebitis) can also lead to other deformities that cause blockages (deep vein thrombosis/DVT) that can ultimately cause them to collapse. These abnormalities can be present at birth, develop over time from life and health changes and medical conditions, or occur from lifestyle, body mechanics, and sedentary behaviors.
Varicose veins are common in individuals with venous stasis ulcers. Varicosities cause pressure buildup and stagnant blood to collect inside the veins, decreasing their function and efficiency, often leading to slow healing or non-healing leg wounds and injuries.
Gender: Women are more susceptible to developing this condition than men due to changes their bodies undergo during pregnancy. Changes in weight, blood volume, vein pressure, and even the type of footwear worn all play a role in slow healing ulcers in females.
Health conditions: Individuals with poorly managed diabetes, high blood pressure, and inflammatory diseases are more susceptible to healing impairments and diabetic ulcers, especially on the legs, ankles, and feet.
Weight: The legs and feet support the entire body. People who are overweight or weigh more than their ideal body weight tend to develop ulcers from the increase of pressure in the veins of the legs from supporting their bodies. The more pressure and weight the lower extremities support, the greater the risk of slow healing wounds, injuries, and vein insufficiency.
Injury and trauma: Venous ulcers are prevalent in individuals with leg injuries or trauma. Severe fractures or deep penetrating wounds, such as lacerations, blows, and even burns or muscle damage, can weaken the valves in the deep veins of the legs or affected area, thus increasing the risk of vein insufficiency and stasis ulcers.
Some invasive medical procedures, such as leg, hip, and knee surgery, come with an elevated risk of stasis ulcers due to the limitations or restrictions patients experience with movement before and after treatment.
Treatment for Venous Stasis Ulcers
It’s not the end of the world if you have venous stasis ulcers, especially if you seek treatment early on. Besides getting a formal diagnosis, practicing exceptional wound care and hygiene is essential to prevent additional issues and complications.
Medical treatments for venous stasis ulcers include angioplasty, atherectomy, and stenting. Combining these treatments with positive lifestyle changes improves treatment outcomes for better vein health and quality of life.
Contact Alliance Vascular Institute at (661) 480-5956 to schedule a consultation with a vein care specialist to learn more about treatment options for venous stasis ulcers.