What is a venous skin ulcer?
ulcer is a type of wound that develops on the skin. A
venous skin ulcer is a shallow wound that develops when
the leg veins don't return blood back toward the heart as they normally would
usually develop on the sides of the lower leg, above the ankle and below the
calf. See a picture of
areas affected by venous skin ulcers.
Venous skin ulcers are slow
to heal and often come back if you don't take steps to prevent them.
A venous skin ulcer also is called a stasis leg ulcer.
What causes venous skin ulcers?
Your veins have
one-way valves that keep blood flowing toward the heart. In venous
insufficiency, the valves are damaged, and blood backs up and pools in the
vein. The blood may leak out of the vein and into the surrounding tissue. This
can lead to a breakdown of the tissue and an ulcer.
See a picture
of abnormal blood flow caused by venous insufficiency.
Veins that become blocked also may cause blood to pool, leading to
What are the symptoms?
The first sign of a venous
skin ulcer is skin that turns dark red or purple over the area where the blood
is leaking out of the vein. The skin also may become thick, dry, and
Without treatment, an ulcer may form. The ulcer may be
painful. You also may have swollen and achy legs.
If the wound
becomes infected, the infection may cause an odor, and pus may drain from the
wound. The area around the wound also may be more tender and red.
Call your doctor when you first notice the signs
of a venous skin ulcer, because you may be able to prevent the ulcer from
forming. If an ulcer has formed, get treatment right away, because new and
smaller ulcers tend to heal faster than larger ones.
How are venous skin ulcers diagnosed?
will diagnose venous skin ulcers by asking questions about your health and
looking at your legs. Your doctor may also use
duplex Doppler ultrasound. This test shows how well
blood is moving through the lower leg.
Your doctor may use other
tests to check for problems related to venous skin ulcers or to recheck the
ulcer if it does not heal within a few weeks after starting treatment.
How are they treated?
Better blood circulation
helps prevent and treat venous skin ulcers. To improve your blood circulation,
- Lift your legs above the level of your heart
as often as possible. For example, lie down and then prop your legs up with
- Use compression stockings or bandages. These help prevent
blood from pooling in your legs.
- Walk daily. Walking helps your blood circulation.