Venous Ulcer: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
If you have an open sore on your leg that just won’t go away, it might be a venous ulcer. Also known as a venous stasis ulcer, venous ulcers are a sign of underlying vein disease or venous insufficiency. This potentially dangerous health condition can cause a range of painful and unpleasant symptoms, primarily in your legs.
Symptoms of vein disease include:
- Swelling in your legs and ankles
- Cramps or achiness in the thigh or calf
- Tired or heavy legs (common for vein disease in legs)
- Restlessness, especially at night
- Itchy, dry, or hardened skin on your legs
- Wounds on your legs or ankles that take a long time to heal, or don’t heal at all
- Leg pain that goes away when you walk or elevate your legs
Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about venous stasis ulcers and how to get a reliable diagnosis.
What Is a Venous Stasis Ulcer?
Venous ulcers are open, non-healing wounds that occur on the legs or ankles. They often develop when blood is not circulating properly and begins to pool in these regions. This accumulation of blood accounts for over 80 percent of all ulcers.
Venous leg ulcers can lead to serious medical problems like infection and skin discoloration.
Venous Ulcer Stages
The development of a venous leg ulcer occurs in four different stages.
- Stage 1 – The start of a venous ulcer often appears as red and inflamed skin. This stage often goes undetected because venous ulcers look similar to a bug bite, bruise, or mild irritation.
- Stage 2 – As the ulcer progresses, the inflamed skin may leak a small amount of fluid. The condition is more likely to be noticed at this stage, as the venous ulcer may look like a severe bruise or the area may become reddened, dry, or cracked.
- Stage 3 – At this stage, the affected area of skin begins to die. This is the foundation of the ulcer. Wounds will begin to look inflamed and possibly deeper than before. Sometimes, venous ulcers may start to heal and then reopen once again.
- Stage 4 – The open wound is visible and apparent. At this stage, the wound may not heal on its own and needs to be kept extremely clean. Your doctor should be aware of your wound and advise you on how to care for your condition. Although venous ulcers won’t usually disappear on their own, vein treatment can help treat the underlying issue. It can also lower your risk of recurrence.
The time it will take for your venous stasis ulcer to progress depends on multiple factors. For one, the quality of your health and circulation will determine how quickly your ulcer will grow, if at all. Making healthy lifestyle choices and being more active are two appropriate methods to slow down the progression of venous ulcers. However, treatment will be required if the ulcer cannot heal on its own.
Underlying venous insufficiency, also known as vein disease, can cause venous ulcers to not heal or recur. Treating the root cause can help prevent venous ulcers from developing in the future.
Venous Ulcer Symptoms
The beginning stages of venous ulcers are often ignored or misdiagnosed. Venous leg ulcers often first look like red, irritated skin or rashes, but they develop into open wounds. They can be identified by closely observing the appearance of your legs.
Some venous ulcers are tender and may produce a small amount of discharge. Cracked, dry, or reddened skin is among the first signs of a venous ulcer. Common symptoms that accompany venous leg ulcers include:
- Itchy, scaly, dry skin on the legs
- Hardened skin around the ulcer
- Heavy feeling in the legs
- Red, purple, or brown color on the skin
- Swollen and enlarged veins on the legs
- Cracked or dry skin that may open up
- Swollen ankles
- Unpleasant and foul-smelling discharge from the ulcer
Untreated venous ulcers are unlikely to get better on their own and can develop into more serious health conditions, which is why it’s important to take note of any symptoms and seek specialized treatment.
Venous Ulcer Causes and Risk Factors
Venous ulcers are caused by underlying vein disease, so improving your vein health can help you avoid getting them. To reduce your odds of developing vein disease, you may want to consider reducing any potential risk factors.
Here are a few common factors that could increase your chances of developing a venous leg ulcer:
- A sedentary lifestyle
- High blood pressure
- Varicose veins
- History of blood clots
Even with appropriate lifestyle modifications, you may still develop vein disease and venous ulcers. This is in part because there is a strong genetic component involved. If you have a close relative with vein disease, you are more likely to develop venous issues. In this case, you may wish to be closely monitored by a vein specialist to avoid any future complications.
Along with the potential development of venous leg ulcers, you may also be at increased risk for dangerous blood clots, so you should promptly seek treatment for your venous ulcers.
Venous Ulcer Treatment
Mild cases of venous leg ulcers can be treated with simple at-home remedies. These methods include:
- Elevate your affected leg when sitting or lying down
- Clean the wound as recommended by your doctor, at least twice a day
- Take antibiotics if the wound is infected
If these methods do not heal your venous stasis ulcer, then you likely will need to seek additional medical help. Venous ulcer treatment focuses on treating the underlying vein disease.
At USA Vein Clinics, our non-surgical treatment techniques aim to reroute blood flow from malfunctioning veins to healthy ones. Proper blood flow plays a crucial role in preventing venous leg ulcers from returning. After appropriate vein treatment, your venous ulcers should be able to heal on their own.
If you want a lasting solution for vein disease or venous stasis ulcers, look no further than USA Vein Clinics. We provide effective, minimally invasive treatment methods for vein disease. We also aim to raise awareness about symptoms of vein disease to individuals in communities across the country.