Venous Ulcers: Who Is At Risk?

A venous ulcer is a deep and, usually, poorly healing wound on the lower leg. To choose the best treatment, it’s important to treat and understand the root cause of the ulcers. You should describe your symptoms to the doctor as precisely as possible. 

In La Mesa, California, Vascular Associates of San Diego can help. Their team of wound care experts can help your venous ulcer heal and address your condition's underlying cause. Our specialists know when and how to apply compression to your leg and ensure the wound is clean and free of dead tissue. We also use specialized dressing to encourage healing. 

What causes venous ulcers?

Venous ulcers arise when blood vessels in your legs aren’t pushing blood back up to your heart. When the blood gets blocked up in your veins, pressure builds. When that pressure isn’t treated, all the excess pressure and increased fluid can cause open sores called venous ulcers. These ulcers appear on the leg, above the ankle, and they’re slow to heal.

In chronic venous weakness, the veins expand and lengthen, causing varicose veins. The enlargement means that the blood can no longer be transported to the heart as well. As a result, the blood stagnates in the veins. This causes water to collect in the surrounding tissue, and edema forms. If the edema persists for a long time, the surrounding connective tissue can harden. Doctors call this sclerosis. 

As a result of these changes, the tissue is no longer adequately supplied with oxygen and nutrients normally transported via the blood and distributed throughout the body. This undersupply leads to foot and leg ulcers after a long time.

Are you at risk for venous ulcers?

A leg ulcer is caused by an insufficient supply of blood in certain areas of the body. There are various possible causes for this inadequate supply. The most common cause is a narrowing of your blood vessels. In rare cases, other factors are involved in the formation of the leg ulcer.

Other causes of venous ulcers

There are various causes and risk factors for venous ulcers.

Chronic venous insufficiency

Venous ulcers arise from chronic venous insufficiency, which occurs when your legs won’t allow blood flow back up to your heart. Blood clots can cause this.

Arteriosclerosis

Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart. They distribute oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Various factors can cause calcium or connective tissue to build up on the wall of the arteries. This hardening of the arteries is called arteriosclerosis. The calcification narrows the arteries’ inside diameter, which means less blood and fewer nutrients and oxygen get into the tissue. This undersupply can also create a venous ulcer.

Smoking

A primary risk factor for the hardening of the arteries is smoking. It promotes the formation of vascular deposits in all vessels in the body. Further risk factors for a leg ulcer caused by arteriosclerosis are high blood pressure (hypertension) and high blood lipid levels (hyperlipidemia).

Diabetes

Another risk factor for developing leg ulcers is diabetes. Diabetic polyneuropathy occurs when nerve damage affects the nerves in your feet. As a result, the sense of feeling in the feet and legs is lost. This can often promote the development of wounds. If these heal poorly or if new sores continue to form, a venous ulcer may result.

Symptoms of venous ulcers

The symptoms of leg ulcers can vary slightly depending on how they develop. Usually, deep wounds occur in a leg ulcer when it doesn’t heal on its own. The ulcer penetrates several layers of the skin and can even reach down to the bones. In most cases, the wounds are damp and persistent. This means that a clear, viscous liquid emerges from the inside. 

In most cases, a venous leg ulcer causes a constant feeling of tension in the affected extremities. On the other hand, pain rarely occurs. Due to the migration of red blood cells from the leg ulcer area, the skin around the wound often turns brown.

Treating venous ulcers

The aim of treatment is primarily to eliminate the underlying cause of your leg ulcer to improve blood flow to your heart. In addition, the wound must be treated so that it heals quickly. Last but not least, your doctor prevents further infection of the wound site. Therapy for leg ulcers usually takes several weeks. Regular check-ups by the doctor should continue even after the end of treatment.

Treatment also reduces your risk of developing an infection, which, if severe, could lead to amputation. For expert assessment and treatment of your venous ulcer, call Vascular Associates of San Diego or book an appointment online today.

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