Venous ulcers should be treated to prevent pain, discomfort, and permanent skin changes.
A venous ulcer is a wound that develops on thelegs when the veins have problems returning blood to the heart. The blood pools in the legs, and can cause leaking into the surrounding tissues. These ulcers tend to appear on the lower leg, particularly on the insides between the knee and the ankle. The ulcers heal over time but often recur.
Symptoms of Venous Ulcers
The first symptom most patients notice when they have a venous ulcer is discoloration. The skin on the legs turns dark red or a purplish-blue over the ulcer. The skin can become very dry, look and feel thin, and begin to itch. Itching may cause the ulcer to erupt into an open, draining wound. The affected leg may feel achy and heavy, and may cause discomfort when the patient stands for a long period of time.
If the ulcer takes a long time to heal, the skin over the ulcer may change permanently. The skin may become permanently thick and hard. This condition is called lipodermatosclerosis. Alternatively, the skin may take on a bumpy texture, or become permanently stained a reddish-brown color.
What Causes Venous Ulcers?
Venous ulcers are caused by a condition called venous insufficiency. Venous insufficiency is characterized by faulty valves in the veins. These veins normally allow blood to flow back into the heart, but instead, they are blocked or damaged, preventing the blood from returning to the heart and allowing it to pool in the legs.
Risks of Having Venous Ulcers
Venous ulcers should be treated to prevent pain, discomfort, and permanent skin changes. In addition to these problems, over time, bacterial infections can set in, particularly if the venous ulcers prompt the patient to itch the skin. Bacteria enter through small breaks in the skin caused by itching. In severe cases, the bone can also become infected.
Treatment Options for Venous Ulcers
Contact The Vein Specialist of Houston if you believe you have a venous ulcer. A vein specialist can treat the venous ulcer in one of several ways. One common way to treat this condition is varicose vein stripping. During varicose vein stripping, the vein specialist makes small cuts in the leg and removes the affected vein. This prevents chronic venous ulcers from recurring because it removed the damaged vein. The other, healthy veins will take over the work once the damaged vein is removed.
Your vein specialist may also recommend a nonsurgical treatment such as fitting you with compression stockings, recommending an exercise program to stimulate proper blood flow in the legs, or recommend a topical steroid cream to relieve the swelling and irritation.
When to Seek Medical Care
If you notice that your venous ulcers have begun to drain pus or if open sores develop over the ulcers, seek medical attention. You may have an infection that requires immediate treatment. Your vein specialist can follow up with treatments to remove the affected vein or to reduce the discomfort and swelling that the ulcers can cause, as well as work with you to prevent the ulcers from recurring.