What do Leg Ulcers Look Like? What Causes Leg Ulcers?
These are 2 of the most common questions I get asked. In response, I will give you 5 essential facts about Venous Leg Ulcers to help inform you when you make your decision about whether to have specialist treatment. I will cover “What are Leg Ulcers?; What do they look like?; What causes them?; When are they a problem?; and How can they be treated?”.
What is it? A venous leg ulcer is a breakdown of the skin that lasts more than 2 weeks, caused by an abnormality of blood flow in the veins, usually vein reflux in the superficial veins.
What does it look like? The ulcer usually develops on the inner or outer side of the lower calf just above the ankle. It causes pain, itch and swelling of the affected leg. The skin around the ulcer is often discoloured and thickened. Sometimes, varicose veins can be seen close to the ulcer.
What causes a venous leg ulcer? Venous Leg Ulcers are be caused by varicose veins, faulty vein valves in the veins under the skin (superficial venous reflux) or Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). A venous leg ulcer is by far the most common type of leg ulcer, accounting for more than 90% of all cases. Usually an ulcer breaks down in an area of varicose eczema and often, it follows a minor injury, such as a knock from a shopping trolley.
When is a venous leg ulcer a problem? All leg ulcers are a problem because they cause pain, disability and social isolation. In younger people, they can lead to time off work and sometimes loss of employment. All leg ulcers should be referred to a specialist team for assessment and treatment.
How can a venous leg ulcer be treated? In the short term, a venous leg ulcer should be managed by a specialist team experienced in cleaning and dressing the ulcer and in this way, the ulcer can be healed by using compression, such as bandages or stockings. In the longer term, the underlying vein problem should be identified by an ultrasound scan and if superficial venous reflux is found, it should be treated. Vein treatments for venous leg ulcers caused by superficial venous reflux can nowadays be carried out very safely under local anaesthetic as a walk in, walk out non-invasive procedure and the age of the person with a leg ulcer is no longer a barrier to effective treatment. Once an ulcer is healed and the underlying vein problem is addressed, under the guidance of a healthcare professional and provided there are no other health issues such arterial disease or diabetes, the risk of the ulcer returning can be reduced by wearing good quality medical-grade compression hosiery.
If you would like more information about leg ulcers, please get in contact and one of our advisors will be happy to help you.
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PS: During the COVID-19 Pandemic, if you have an urgent problem with your veins or you are worried about your leg ulcer, please contact the NHS 111