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Venous Leg Ulcer Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

leg ulcer treatment

Leg Ulcer

Leg ulcers are open sores on the skin surface of the legs, usually around the ankle. These are commonly caused by an injury or accident when the break in the skin of the leg makes an easy passage for air and bacteria to get into the underlying tissue.

These ulcers are difficult to heal mainly because of poor blood circulation in the affected limb. When the valves of a few leg veins tend to malfunction and prevent blood from flowing back to the heart, excess blood tends to pool in the veins and leads to open sores, also called venous leg ulcers.

Leg ulcers are more common in women than in men and can last anywhere between a few weeks to a few years. In the scenario of a delay or lack of treatment, the leg ulcers can continue to re-occur and even lead to different types of venous disorders.

Risk Factors

The main cause of leg ulcers is a vascular disorder. Primarily, these ulcers are known to be a complication of untreated varicose veins. They are common for people who have had previous leg injuries or have a history of blood clots and/or phlebitis.

Venous leg ulcers are more likely to develop in old age and thus age is another major risk factor. Other common causes of leg ulcers include obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol, and kidney disease.

Lifestyle factors such as smoking or having a sedentary lifestyle characterized a lack of physical exercise and consumption of an unhealthy diet are also prevalent causes of leg ulcers.

Leg Ulcer Treatment


It is easy to identify a venous leg ulcer. The open sore wound is asymmetrical in shape but its edges are clearly defined from the surrounding skin. The skin around the wound is usually inflamed, pigmented, and hardened. If infected, these open sores have a yellowish-white discharge with an unpleasant smell.

Patients complain of pain and a feeling of heaviness, especially while standing. Varicose veins, the bluish-purple enlarged veins are also often visible on the skin surface in the affected area. In some extreme cases where the leg ulcer worsens to result in venous eczema, the skin around the wound becomes red, flaky, and causes extreme itching.


Diagnosis for leg ulcers is usually based on symptoms and examination of the wound. The doctor will ask you for all details about your personal and family medical history. He/she will also recommend imaging scans such as MRI, CT scan, and X-Ray to check out your veins and the area around the ulcer in more detail.

In some rare cases, the doctor might ask you to undergo some tests to check for the blood flow in your lower legs. These tests are aimed to compare the blood pressure readings at the ankle and either of your arm. For a few patients, the doctor might also request an angiogram to check the possibility of arterial ulcers.

Endovenous Laser Ablation

Stages of Varicose Ulcers in legs

It is important to treat venous leg ulcers to prevent them from growing in size and also ease the pain and swelling in the damaged area. In most cases, patients are suggested to wear compression stockings which are known to promote blood circulation.

If the wound is infected, doctors may also prescribe some antibiotics. Blood thinners are also recommended to prevent the formation of blood clots in the legs. For a few patients, the removal of varicose veins may become important to prevent blood pooling and enable faster healing of the leg ulcer.

Endovenous laser ablation is a painless, minimally-invasive, and non-surgical treatment for varicose veins and venous leg ulcers. In this process, all varicose veins are removed in a single sitting without the need for general anesthesia or hospitalization. It is a safe and effective treatment, highly recommended for everyone regardless of age and the severity of the problem.

Venous Skin Ulcers Symptoms, Causes and Advance Treatment


What are the first signs of a leg ulcer?

The first signs of a leg ulcer are: asymmetrical open sore wound with defined edges, hardened skin around the wound, discharge with a foul smell, itchiness, flaky skin, bluish-purple enlarged veins on the affected area, and a heavy feeling in the legs.

What does leg ulcers look like?

A leg ulcer looks like an asymmetrical open sore with clearly defined edges and yellowish-white pus. The surrounding skin is inflamed and hardened. In the initial stages, you will notice skin discolouration. In extreme cases, skin becomes flaky and red.

How to identify a leg ulcer?

Identifying a leg ulcer is easy. The open sore is asymmetrical in shape with clearly defined edges. These sores discharge yellowish-white pus with an unpleasant odour. The surrounding skin is hardened and inflamed. Bluish-purple enlarged veins are often visible on the affected area.

Are leg ulcers life threatening?

No, leg ulcers are not a direct threat to life. However, if left untreated, severe ulcers can continue to reoccur and take longer to heal. At times, they can lead to more serious health conditions and lead to other venous disorders.

Can leg ulcers lead to amputation?

It is very rare for a venous leg ulcer to lead to amputation as even large ulcers can be successfully treated. Consult our vascular specialists for immediate diagnosis and appropriate treatment based on the severity of the condition.

How to treat a leg ulcer?

To prevent leg ulcers from growing in size, doctors recommend the patients to wear compression stockings that promote blood circulation. For infected wounds, they prescribe antibiotics and blood thinners. For some, blocking the varicose veins is important for faster healing of leg ulcers.

What causes leg ulcers?

The veins in the legs pump blood back to the heart. However, there is an increased pressure at the end of the limb when the veins don’t function properly, causing the valves to bulge, which causes open sores.

Are leg ulcers painful?

Venous leg ulcers are open sores in the skin, which are often painful. Patients complain of a sensation of heavy legs, especially while standing. In extreme cases, the leg ulcer worsens to result in venous eczema. The surrounding skin becomes flaky and red and causes extreme discomfort.

What tests to take to diagnose leg ulcer?

To diagnose leg ulcers, a vascular specialist will ask you to describe the symptoms and your family medical history. An MRI, CT scan, X-Ray and a colour doppler test may be recommended to check out the veins and blood flow in your lower legs.

Are compression stockings mandatory for leg ulcers?

To treat leg ulcers and to stop them from recurring or growing, vascular specialists recommend patients to wear compression stockings. It eases the swelling and pain in the affected area while promoting blood circulation. It for your vascular expert to decide whether you need stockings or not.

How long to wear a compression stocking if you have leg ulcer?

Most venous leg ulcers heal within a few months. However, you should continue wearing compression stockings, once the wound heals, to prevent further development of leg ulcers.

How many seatings are required to treat a leg ulcer?

At Avis Vascular Centres, our qualified vascular surgeons recommend patients to go for endovenous laser ablation technique that seals varicose veins in a single sitting. It prevents blood pooling and enables faster healing of leg ulcers.

How can venous ulcers be prevented?

Wearing compression stockings, keeping your legs elevated and maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent venous leg ulcers from growing and recurring. They also promote blood circulation.

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