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What Are Leg Ulcers and Are They Serious?

Leg ulcers can be a complication of venous disease. They are caused by long-standing venous insufficiency. Venous leg ulcerations are shallow, irritating, painful and typically found on the sides of the lower leg and around the ankle bone. We see them generally below the calf at the ankle or foot.

What Are the Signs of Leg Ulcers?

The first signs of leg ulcers may be dark, reddish-brown or purple skin discoloration with dry, firm skin in the lower leg. Chronic swelling in the ankle area may also be visible. When these signs and symptoms of pressure or aching go untreated, an ulcer can occur.

Leg ulcers rarely occur quickly unless there is trauma, like dropping something on or hitting the skin. That’s good news because once you recognize the impending signs of ulcers, you should have adequate time to get the proper treatment before they form and become a chronic sore with pain which oozes fluid. If you see the warning signs of ulcers, reach out to a vein care specialist today to discuss the best treatment before they become a bigger problem.

Leg Ulcers Can Be a Complication of Venous Disease
A typical venous ulcer.

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— Hector T.

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Stasis Dermatitis vs. Cellulitis–Inflammation vs. Infection

Patients who experience swelling of the lower leg and ankle and have experienced some thickening of the tissue will often notice tenderness on the inside of the lower leg with pinkish to reddish discoloration, particularly after standing or being up on their feet for long periods. This can raise the fear of infection, especially when increased warmth is experienced. It is not uncommon for ER physicians, family practitioners and internists to diagnose this as cellulitis, an infection, and prescribe antibiotics.

Often an ultrasound is ordered to rule out a deep vein clot. This is not a situation caused by a clot and it isn’t an infection. It is inflammation as a result of swelling from fluid passing through the vein wall. Antibiotics aren’t necessary and can lead to their own problems.

What Causes Skin Ulcers?

Faulty vein valve function with edema over time causes progressive tissue destruction. Blood pooling in the lower legs can eventually cause red cells and fluid to leak from veins into surrounding tissue. This progressively damages and eventually darkens, thickens and dries skin. Tissue breakdown and ulceration can occur over time.

Why Do Venous Ulcers Occur and How Should They Be Treated?

Venous ulcers occur because of continued swelling of the leg with tissue and skin damage. The process can take years. The tissue and skin becomes dry, stiff and brittle. If you’re starting to notice these skin changes, schedule an appointment with our vein care specialists today. 

Do you have the warning signs and symptoms of vein disease?

Take this short, five-question quiz to find out if you’re at risk.

Do you have the warning signs of vein disease?

1

Do your legs often feel tired and heavy?