Posted on November 3, 2017 by Texas Vein & Wellness Institute
If a wound on your leg isn’t healing on its own, don’t ignore it. Ignoring a leg ulcer, particularly one that appears to be infected, can lead to serious skin and bone infections. So what are leg ulcers? Here, we take a deeper look at prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
What are leg ulcers?
Wounds on the legs that won’t heal are called leg ulcers. It could be caused by a cut or it could develop in a place in the skin that isn’t getting the nutrients and oxygen it needs from the blood. High pressure in the veins of the lower leg causes venous leg ulcers to develop.
Veins are supposed to send blood back to your heart and something, usually valves, aren’t stopping the blood where they should.
That backflow of blood then increases the pressure at the end of the limb weakening the skin and making it more difficult for the wound to heal itself. This can occur anywhere on your body but most frequently happens in bony areas, like ankles.
It feels itchy or burns. If it becomes red, swollen and has pus, and you experience worsening pain or fever, you need to see your doctor as these are signs of infection.
If you have a leg ulcer, the goal is to lower the higher pressure in the lower leg veins. Compression bandages or stockings can improve blood circulation and stop blood from pooling. Elevating the affected limb will help lower the pressure in the leg veins as well. If the foot is elevated about the heart for 30 minutes at a time, 3-4 times a day, the pressure will drop to a normal level.
Pain medications may be provided as needed. If the wound is infected, antibiotics will be prescribed. Once the leg wound is healed, surgery may be indicated to take care of the cause of the leg ulcer. Sclerotherapy, laser ablation and ambulatory phlebectomy can close off the diseased vein or veins.
Until the causes of your circulation are addressed, you may be prone to more leg ulcers. Lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of developing future leg ulcers, including:
Eat right and exercise. Aim for a low-salt diet and consume more fruits and vegetables.
Lose weight. The heavier you are the more pressure that is placed on your legs.
Stop smoking. Smoking is bad for vascular health as it constricts blood vessels.
Watch your blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about medication or other ways to bring it down to normal levels.
Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes, you need to manage your blood sugar levels to improve your vascular health.
Elevate your legs. Elevating your legs above your heart from time to time while you’re reading or watching TV will help.
Wear compression stockings. If you stand a lot for work, compression stocks will help veins fight gravity.