Venous Skin Ulcer - Topic Overview
What are the symptoms? continued...
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?
Your doctor will diagnose venous skin ulcers by asking questions about your health and looking at your legs. Your doctor may also use duplex Doppler ultrasound to find out what is causing the ulcer. 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 the start of treatment.
How are they treated?
The first step involves improving blood circulation. To do this, you can:
- Lift your legs above the level of your heart as often as possible. For example, lie down and then prop up your legs with pillows.
- Wear compression stockings or bandages. These help prevent blood from pooling in your legs.
- Walk daily. Walking helps your blood circulation.
To help your ulcer heal, your doctor may also remove dead tissue from the wound (debridement).
After your ulcer has healed, continue to wear compression stockings. Take them off only when you bathe and sleep. Compression therapy helps your blood circulate and helps prevent other ulcers from forming.
If your ulcer doesn't heal within a few months, your doctor may advise other treatment, such as:
- Medicine to speed healing or get rid of an infection (antibiotics).
- Skin grafting, which may be needed for deep or hard-to-heal ulcers.
- Vein surgery, which may keep ulcers from coming back.