When the valves in our leg veins become weak, either from heredity or injury, blood can pool in the lower legs under pressure. This leads not only to swelling, but also to skin damage. With time the skin can break open, known as a venous stasis ulcer. Also known as a venous leg ulcer, these are chronic wounds on the lower leg – typically around the ankle. One characteristic is that they can be very slow to heal or not heal at all without treatment.
Leg ulcers some times spontaneously open up, or develop after a minor injury. This is a progressive problem with and there are causes & conditions that can lead to venous ulcers.
The primary underlying cause is chronic venous insufficiency. If the underlying cause of the ulcer is not treated, venous ulcers will fail to heal or repetitively return.
Symptoms of Venous Ulcers
Patients who experience venous ulcers often have long-standing venous insufficiency and experience high venous blood pressure in the lower legs for an extended period of time. This can occur even with varicose veins are not visible on the surface of the leg.
Venous leg ulcers are often associated with:
- Swollen ankles
- Skin discoloration around the ulcer
- Hardened skin around the ulcer
- Heaviness in the legs
- Aching in the legs
- Varicose eczema
- Varicose veins
Signs of an Ulcer Infection
Because they are open wounds, a venous leg ulcer can be prone to bacterial infection. An ulcer may be infected if patients experience:
- Pain that gets worse
- Discharge that can be green or foul-smelling
- Redness and swelling around the ulcer
- Fever if there is surrounding infection
Many venous ulcers look infected, even though most are not. Most are colonized with bacteria but that does not mean there is an invasive infection in the tissue around them.
However, for those that do become infected, this infection can be life-threatening and may require hospitalization and/or long-term IV antibiotics. The surrounding infection is known as cellulitis or lymphangitis. This is why it’s important for all venous ulcers to be evaluated as early as possible by a vein or vascular specialist since early treatment can reduce the risk of infection leading to hospitalization.
Frustrations Around Non-Healing Leg Wounds
There are other types of non-healing leg wounds, but venous ulcers are a highly common cause.
When a patient visits one of our offices with a venous stasis ulcer, they are often frustrated with a wound that has been on going and has not yet healed. Some have had the venous ulcer for many years, as their small wound has opened up, become larger, and failed to heal. We often hear:
- Patients have seen multiple doctors and clinics, without any luck in figuring out what is wrong.
- Patients may not have been told by other providers that their non-healing leg wound could, in fact, be due to venous insufficiency.
- Patients often think they had a bug bit, or assume the wound is entirely due to an infection.
At Inovia Vein Specialty Centers, we specialize in Venous Stasis Ulcer Treatment and we have the diagnostic tools and experience needed to help make an accurate diagnosis and develop a definitive short-term and long-term treatment plan. We can both diagnose and treat these problems in our office without having to send patients out for more tests.