A venous ulcer is a shallow skin wound that develops when the veins don’t return blood back toward the heart as they normally would. (This is venous insufficiency). These ulcers usually develop on the sides of the lower leg, above the ankle and below the calf. Venous skin ulcers, also called statis leg ulcers, heal slowly and often come back without preventative treatment.
What causes venous ulcers? Veins have one-way valves that keep blood circulating to 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, which can lead the tissue to break down and cause an ulcer.
What are the symptoms? In the area where the blood is seeping out of the vein, the skin turns dark red or purple. Skin may also become thick, dry and itchy. Untreated, an ulcer may form and become painful. Legs may become swollen and sore. An infected wound may cause an odor, and puss may drain from the wound. The area around the wound also may be more tender and red. It’s important to call us when you first see signs of a venous ulcer, as we may be able to help prevent the ulcer from forming. And, if it is formed, seek treatment immediately; smaller and newer ulcers heal faster.
How are venous skin ulcers diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask questions about your health and will examine affected areas. They may also perform ultrasound testing. All can be done within the comfort of the office. 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.