Leg ulcers are the 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 common in women than in men and can last from 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 other venous disorders.
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.
The 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 by lack of physical exercise and consumption of an unhealthy diet are also the prevalent causes of leg ulcers.
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
It is important to treat the 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, 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 their age and severity of the problem.