WHAT ARE VENOUS ULCERS?
Venous Ulcers, sometimes called varicose ulcers or venous stasis ulcers, are painful and raw ulcers that commonly develop near the ankle. These can occur due to venous insufficiency which is the weakening of veins that prevents the blood from circulating properly. The added vein pressure and fluid pooling over time will cause ulcers to develop.
Venous ulcers often occur around the ankles and heels on the lower extremities. Without proper treatment, these wounds will not heal.
Roughly 1% of Americans suffer from venous ulcers. They tend to be more common among older people and women. If left untreated, the increased pressure and fluid buildup in the affected region will cause an open sore to form.
WHAT CAUSES VENOUS ULCERS?
Venous Insufficiency, which is a problem with the vein valves not being able to pump blood properly, causes added pressure to build in the veins. The higher than normal pressure through veins results in venous hypertension which will cause blood to pool in the lower extremities around the ankles and feet. Over time, this pressure will result in the development of painful ulcers.
Venous ulcers are a result of high pressure in the veins of your lower leg. These veins have valves that move blood in a single direction, toward the heart. When these veins become weakened or the vein is scarred and blocked, blood can begin to glow backward.
This buildup of fluid keeps nutrients and oxygen from reaching the tissues, causing cells to die and the tissue to become damaged, resulting in a wound.
Stages of Venous Ulcers
Venous ulcers occur typically over time as venous reflux disease progresses over time. These stages occur:
Spider Veins – Smaller, thread-like veins that occur near the surface of the skin and often appear on the legs or face. They can appear as red, purplish, or blue veins and often look like tree branches or spider webs with jagged edges that grow outward.
Varicose Veins – Swollen, bulging veins that protrude from the surface of the skin, often with a blue or purplish color. They commonly have a rope-like or cord-like appearance on the skin.
Discoloration – Hyperpigmentation or skin color changes in the skin as result from significant venous circulatory issues. Increased pressure from damaged veins can keep blood from flowing properly and cause some of this blood to leak out of the veins and into the skin. This is known as Venous stasis dermatitis.
Venous Ulcers – Painful and raw ulcers that commonly develop near the ankle. These can occur due to venous insufficiency which is the weakening of veins that prevents the blood from circulating properly. The added vein pressure and fluid pooling over time will cause ulcers to develop
Venous Ulcer Risk Factors
Certain risk factors for venous ulcers include:
- Varicose veins
- Sitting or standing for long periods
- History of blood clots in the legs
- Family history of venous insufficiency
- A fracture of a long bone in the leg or other injuries such as burns or muscle damage
It is possible to reduce your risk of developing a venous ulcer by trying to reverse the behaviors listed above that can be mitigated. Stop smoking as soon as possible, for example, as smoking is very detrimental to your blood vessels. Stay active and exercise to help with blood flow. Eat healthy and get your recommended amount of sleep each night.
Venous Ulcers Treatment
The goal of treatment is to keep the site of the venous ulcer free of infection while it heals, and alleviating edema of the site. Oral antibiotics are needed only if the surrounding tissue is infected.
Compression bandages or stockings are commonly prescribed for venous ulcers, as the pressure can improve the blood circulation in your leg, aiding your body in healing the wound. At the same time, compression therapy is only used in those patients who do not have an underlying significant arterial disease.
You may be told to raise your leg for approximately 30 minutes at a time. This should be done three or four times per day to help with circulation.
A vascular procedure may be necessary to heal your damaged veins and prevent further injury such as nonsurgical radiofrequency ablation. This procedure reduces the backflow of blood from your deep penetrating veins to superficial leg veins.
At Virginia Vein Care, we can begin assessing your venous ulcer using a duplex ultrasound scan to look at how your veins are functioning. If we find significant incompetence in the surface veins of your leg, this is evidence that treating these veins can help with healing your vein ulcer and prevent it from recurring.
Virginia Vein Care is experienced with offering the most progressive approaches in treating patients with advanced symptoms of venous reflux disease including the diseases mentioned above. Consult with our physician today to learn more about venous ulcer treatment.
We have locations in McLean, VA, and Purcellville, VA. Set up your vein consultation today!