A venous leg ulcer is a chronic sore or wound that does not heal on time. It could take weeks or years to heal by Venous leg ulcer treatment.
They usually form and develop on the inside of the leg just above the ankle region.
You may feel itching, swelling, and pain at the early stage of the venous leg ulcer. The skin around the affected area may become discolored and hardened.
A venous leg ulcer that is not treated on time may get infected, leading to serious health conditions.
Causes of Venous leg ulcer
Venous leg ulcer is caused by inefficiency or non-functioning of the veins in the legs.
The veins in the legs that transmit blood from the leg to the heart might become non-functional. This might be because the values that stop the flow of blood back into the veins are not working properly.
When this situation occurs, there is increased pressure at the end of the leg. This weakens and breaks the skin on the leg, usually around the ankle. The break causes a wound to be formed that does not heal on time.
Venous ulcer accounts for most cases of leg ulcers. An estimated 1 out of every 50 people above the age of 80 has venous ulcer.
People with a leg injury, swollen veins, enlarged veins, obesity, osteoarthritis, paralysis, or had a recent leg operation, knee replacement are more at risk of developing venous leg ulcer.
Older people and heavy smokers are also at risk of developing venous leg ulcer.
Symptoms of Venous leg ulcer
Symptoms of the early stage of venous leg ulcer are quite different from symptoms of ulcer that has been infected.
Major Symptoms of the early stage of venous leg ulcer include:
- Discoloration around the ulcer site
- Hardened skin around the ulcer site.
- Swollen ankles
- Aching and swollen legs
- Itching and pains around the ulcer site
- Reddish and scaly skin
- Swollen and enlarged veins.
Symptoms of the latter stage of venous leg ulcer include:
- Worsening pain on your legs
- Foul and unpleasant smell emitting from the ulcer
- Greenish or unpleasant discharges coming out from the wound.
- You may develop a high fever
Diagnoses of Venous leg ulcer
Your doctor will examine the affected area and ask you some questions about your medical history. He or she will examine the area for hardened skin, pains or loss of sensations.
You may be asked if you have diabetes, deep vein thrombosis or have suffered an injury before. You may be also asked if you have undergone a surgical operation in your leg before.
The doctor asks you to stand on your feet and walk. Your pulse rate may also be examined at your ankle area to ascertain if your arteries are still functioning properly.
The doctor may carry out a test known as Doppler study to ascertain if the possible cause of the ulcer is due to peripheral arterial disease.
Your blood pressure in the arteries at your ankles will be measured and compared with the blood pressure in the arteries at your arms.
If the blood pressure in your ankles is lower than the blood pressure in your arms, then you have the peripheral arterial disease.
If your blood vessels are affected, you may be referred to a vascular specialist for proper care and diagnosis.
You may undergo additional tests and imaging scans such as blood tests, X-rays, CT scans, MRI scan to determine the severity of the ulcer and to examine nearby bones.
Treatment of Venous leg ulcer
- The first process of Venous leg ulcer treatment is to remove the dead tissues from the surface. This process is known as debridement.
The dead tissues are removed then the ulcer will be properly cleaned. After cleaning, necessary medications are applied to the wound and it is then bandaged properly.
Oral medications may also be given to you in case of any infection in the ulcer. The bandage is changed periodically depending on the healing rate of the ulcer.
- Compression therapy is done to improve vein circulation in your legs. Your doctor will wrap a firm compression bandage over the affected area to squeeze your legs and improve blood flow upwards towards your heart.
The compression bandage will be changed whenever the dressing is being changed.
You may feel a great deal of pain at the early stage when the compression bandage is used but the pain will start to reduce as the ulcer begins to heal.
You may be given paracetamol or painkillers to relieve the pain. In case you feel severe pain or your toes get very swollen, you might need to remove the compression bandage.
There are new alternatives to compression bandages in some clinics such as special stockings or other forms of compression devices.
Keeping your leg elevated at most times will help to ease pain and swelling. Whenever you are lying down, try as much as possible to keep your leg elevated.
Daily walks, engaging in activities and exercises also help to reduce leg swelling.
- If you feel excessive itching or you have rashes or scaly skin, it can be treated by a moisturizer and mild corticosteroid cream or ointment.
In case you have allergic reactions to the creams or bandages applied, you can talk to your doctor or dermatologist.
Try as much as possible to reduce the rate you scratch your legs. Excessive scratching of the leg could damage your skin and lead to infection.
Prevention of Venous leg ulcer
To prevent venous leg ulcer, you need to commit to a healthy lifestyle and eat proper diets. Below are the things you can do to prevent venous leg ulcer:
- Quit smoking
- If you are overweight, try to lose weight and if you are not, avoid gaining weight.
- Reduce the intake of salt. Don’t add too much salt in your foods.
- Keep your legs elevated whenever possible.
- Wear compression stockings to improve the upward flow of blood to your heart.
- Engage in regular exercise.
- Occasionally take aspirin to prevent blood clots.
- Control your blood sugar level.
- Seek medical attention if you have diabetes or high blood pressure.