There are a number of issues that can affect the legs, more commonly later in life. Chronic venous disease (otherwise known as chronic venous insufficiency) and leg ulcersare most common among these. Together, these issues affect 1-2 people per thousand on average, while 1-2% of people will develop an ulcer of the leg during their lifetime. This is a significant issue as the healing of ulcers can be difficult and as many as 50% of venous leg ulcers remain unhealed after nine months. The presence of an ulcer on the leg impacts the quality of life, and many people who have a leg ulcer will suffer a recurrence of the problem.
What is Chronic Venous Disease?
Chronic venous disease or venous insufficiency results when changes occur in the tissues within the legs. This is a direct result of long-term high pressure in the veins, associated with compromised venous blood flow in the legs. This happens when the valves in the veins that prevent blood from flowing backwards fail and blood pools in the lower legs, as well as rarer cases where veins become blocked.
Chronic venous disease can affect both superficial and deep veins; superficial veins will often become varicose and are more obvious, however, deeper veins affected by this issue require an ultrasound examination for definitive diagnosis.
What Causes Leg Ulcers?
Leg ulcers occur when an area of skin is lost. Unlike a graze, in which only the uppermost layers of skin are damaged and healing takes place over the entire area at once, an ulcer represents the loss of the entire skin thickness in that area. Healing of an ulcer must take place inward from the outside edges of the ulcer, and this takes a long time.
The potentially difficult healing process is the main implication of having an ulcer. Ulcers can also be very painful.
In developed countries like Australia, most ulcers on the legs are caused by diseased veins or arteries in the legs. The vast majority are a direct result of venous disease. (Some may also be caused by diabetes, and very rare cases are in fact skin cancer).
How Do Venous Disease and Leg Ulcers Affect You?
Over a prolonged time, the high pressure in the veins that represents venous disease causes chronic inflammation, and clinical signs and symptoms above and around the ankles that may include:
- Ulceration of the lower legs
- Swelling of the lower leg, ankle and foot
- Brownish pigmentation around and above the ankle caused by the leaking of blood cells in the area
- Thickening and hardening of the tissues under the skin. This is called LDS or lipodermatosclerosis.
- Changes to the shape of the leg – it can become very narrow at and just above the ankle and much wider on the upper calf.
- Varicose eczema is a skin condition where the skin of the lower leg becomes red, scaly, and breaks down to become moist. It can be a small area or the entire lower leg and it can become very inflamed and painful.
What Can You Do About Chronic Venous Disease and Leg Ulcers?
If you are having issues with your legs, even if it is only one leg displaying symptoms, you need to see a doctor for a comprehensive examination and assessment. Any ulcer on the leg needs to be assessed to prevent further damage and also to rule out skin cancer as a cause (this is very rare).
The most appropriate treatment for venous disease and leg ulcers will be advised by your doctor. There are various types of vein treatments available and your doctor can assess which will be most suitable for your unique circumstances.
What Can I Do to Avoid Leg Ulcers?
Chronic venous disease is frequently the result of both genetic and lifestyle factors. While age and having a family history of venous disease are unavoidable, and spending long hours standing does impact on the development of the problem, smoking cigarettes, being physically inactive, and being overweight are all contributors to the problem, and by making healthier lifestyle choices, you can mitigate your risks of developing leg ulcers and venous disease.
Crows Nest Cosmetic and Vein Clinic offers premium, advanced treatments for venous disease and leg ulcers. We provide the highest standard of professional service and patient care possible, with the most highly experienced medical and health professionals in the industry. Dr Nicole James is our Head Vein Doctor and she has extensive, world-class experience in vein treatments and addressing issues such as leg ulcers. Call our clinic today to book a consultation with him to assess and treat all issues you are having with the veins in your legs for a healthier and more comfortable future.