What are leg ulcers?
Leg ulcers can be acute or chronic. Acute wounds are defined
as those that follow the normal phases of healing. They are
expected to show signs of healing in less than 4 weeks, and include
wounds due to trauma or operations.
Chronic wounds are those that persist for more than four
weeks, and are often due to complex and poorly understood causes.
A venous leg ulcer is a chronic wound that is caused by poor
circulation of blood from your legs to your heart, usually due to
faulty valves inside the leg veins.
Healthy valves allow blood to flow up the leg toward the
heart and prevent backward flow down the leg. Faulty valves do not
stop this backward flow, allowing pressure to build up in the leg
veins, with blood pooling around the lower part of the leg that can
extend up to the knee. This pressure damages tiny blood vessels in
the skin, making the skin become thin and inflamed, and causing it
to break down easily. The death of tissue cells leads to the ulcer.
Who is at risk?
Chronic leg ulcers affect about 1% of the middle-aged and
elderly population. They most commonly occur in patients with
chronic venous insufficiency, or poor circulation in the veins.
Certain conditions may contribute to the development of
venous leg ulcers:
What are the signs and symptoms?
- Varicose veins
- History of leg swelling
- History of blood clots, such as deep vein thrombosis
- Sitting or standing for long periods
- High blood pressure
- Multiple pregnancies
- Previous surgery
- Fractures or injuries in patients with chronic venous
- Increasing age and immobility
- Located below the knee, most often on the inner part of
- Relatively painless unless infected
- Associated with aching, swollen lower legs that feel more
comfortable when elevated
- Surrounded by mottled brown or black staining and/or dry,
itchy and reddened skin
What are the treatments?
Where possible, treatment aims to reverse the factors that
caused the ulcer. The standard treatment for a venous leg ulcer is
compression therapy, combined with exercise, elevation and rest.
Once the wound is cleaned and the dead tissue removed, a
compression bandage is tightly wrapped around the wound, from the
toes to the area below the knee, to help push blood away from the
area back up to the heart. Compression therapy can be effective,
though it may take a long time, and sometimes does not work.
If the wound is infected, an antibiotic may be prescribed to
treat the tissue infection. Because wound healing requires certain
nutrients, such as protein, iron, vitamin C and zinc, supplements
may be prescribed if they are lacking in the diet.
Apligraf® , when combined with
compression therapy, has been shown to heal more venous leg ulcers.
Of course, as with any medical condition, it is better to prevent a
venous leg ulcer than to have to treat one. To learn more about
prevention, click here.
Here for Examples of Venous Leg Ulcers...
To discover more resources for venous leg ulcer, click here.