We all know that varicose veins can be unsightly and uncomfortable. But left untreated, for some people they can become a major health concern with potentially severe repercussions.
One of these risks is the development of a venous ulcer.
What are Venous Ulcers?
An ulcer is an open sore or wound on the surface of the skin or the lining of the digestive tract or other mucous membranes. It heals slowly (or not at all) and can recur often. Ulcers are usually caused by an injury, infection, or as a consequence of systemic disease. Some mucous membrane ulcers can be caused by stress.
Venous ulcers (also called stasis ulcers) are shallow wounds that form on the lower legs. They are associated with compromised circulation (blood flow) in the leg veins and the presence of varicose veins. They form most commonly around the ankle area, at the sides of the lower leg, and below the calf.
Ordinarily, in a person with healthy veins, the body quickly heals the skin of the leg if it suffers a graze, scrape, or cut. If an ulcer forms in the wound, however, the skin is very slow to heal and may not heal at all without specific treatment.
Venous ulcers may also form over an underlying varicose vein without an obvious injury to the skin precipitating it.
Causes of Venous Ulcers
Varicose veins themselves may also cause venous ulcers, as can chronic venous insufficiency.
The risk of developing venous ulcers is greater with:
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (a blood clot in the deep veins of the leg)
- Work or travel requiring long periods of standing or sitting
- Lack of exercise/physical activity
(Other Types of Skin Ulcers – arterial skin ulcers and neuropathic skin ulcers may also occur on the lower legs or feet. Arterial skin ulcers are linked to arterial disease and are usually located on the feet or toes. They are very painful. Neuropathic skin ulcers are associated with diabetic nerve damage).
Signs of Venous Ulcers
- The skin over the damaged vein turns a dark purple or red.
- The skin may thicken and become dry and itchy.
- Untreated, the skin breaks down and forms an ulcer. It will be a shallow, red open wound, and the edges will likely be irregular. It may be associated with pain, aching, or swelling.
- If the ulcer becomes infected, the area surrounding the wound will likely become redder and more tender. There may be a foul odour and pus may drain from the wound.
Caring for Venous Ulcers
Venous ulcers must be cared for properly. If you suspect you have one, get it seen to immediately – new, small ulcers are easier to treat and heal than larger, more established ulcers.
Any ulcer must be checked promptly by your GP or a vein doctor so that you can be given the appropriate guidance for managing the issue.
Treatment will involve specific measures to prevent infection and promote healing. You may also be given a treatment regimen that focuses on the underlying cause of the development of the ulcer and addressing the varicose vein or other circulatory problem at its root.
Home care for venous ulcers includes:
- Regular gentle wound cleaning
- Keeping the ulcer covered with a fresh, non-stick dressing
- Application of topical medications and/or antibacterial ointment to treat/prevent infection
- Taking oral antibiotics as prescribed
- Wearing compression stockings or a compression wrap as advised by your doctor
- Avoidance of products that cause skin sensitivity
- Taking care to not further injure the legs
- Walking daily to improve circulation
- Very severe venous ulcers that refuse to heal may require surgery
Prevention of Venous Ulcers
The best way to prevent venous ulcers from occurring is to from the outset, prevent the vein problems that cause them. Maintaining healthy circulation in the legs is imperative. While you can’t prevent some of the risk factors that lead to varicose veins and vein disease, including genetics, ageing, and menopause, certain lifestyle changes can improve your circulation and prevent the likelihood of you developing venous ulcers:
- Maintain a healthy weight and lose weight if you need to
- Avoid smoking
- Drink plenty of water
- Minimise added salt and sugar in your diet
- Exercise regularly
- Move around often
- Elevate your legs when relaxing
- Wear compression stockings if you are travelling long distances or spend long periods on your feet
- Control high cholesterol, and high blood pressure
- Manage diabetes
- Have varicose veins treated by a professional vein specialist
Varicose Vein Treatment in Sydney
Crows Nest Cosmetic & Vein Clinic is a leading Sydney provider of minimally invasive varicose vein treatment. Our walk-in, walk-out clinic offers your best options to improve the comfort and appearance of your legs and lower your risk of developing a venous ulcer.
Dr James will consult with you to understand your concerns, assess your veins and the severity of your vein disease, and she will recommend the most appropriate vein treatment approach for you.
Book a Consultation with Dr James Now
Book your consultation at Crows Nest Vein Clinic today!
You do not need a referral from your GP to book with us. Vein treatments at our clinic are eligible for Medicare Rebates and some Private Health Funds may cover some gap costs.