What Is A Venous Ulcer?
Venous ulcers (also known as venous stasis ulcers or nonhealing wounds) are open wounds around the ankle or lower leg.
They do not heal for weeks or months and sometimes longer.
Venous stasis ulcers are often on the ankle or calf and are painful and red.
A yellow, fibrous tissue may cover the ulcer and have an irregular border. Drainage and discharge are common with venous stasis ulcers.
This type of ulcer is common in people who have varicose veins or a history of leg swelling.
Causes of venous ulcers
Venous ulcers occur because of poor blood flow in the leg veins.
Valves inside the leg veins control blood flow through the veins. But these valves can get damaged, altering blood flow and leading to ulcers.
Without adequate blood flow, your body has trouble healing, causing the ulcers to linger.
Venous ulcers often form because of an underlying issue that reduces wound healing or damages the skin, such as:
- Venous hypertension. When you walk, usually your blood pressure drops in the legs. When that doesn't happen, you have venous hypertension, which causes ulcers to form.
- Venous insufficiency. When the leg veins cannot pump blood back to the heart, the blood pools in your legs, causing swelling. Over time, the swelling damages the skin and makes it hard for your body to heal.
- Varicose veins. Problems in the leg vein valves lead to blood pooling in the lower leg. This pooling causes varicose veins and can lead to an ulcer.
- Blood clots. Blood clots block the vein, reducing blood flow to the lower leg.
- Poor circulation (peripheral artery disease). Reduced blood flow from poor circulation slows healing.
- Diabetes, kidney failure, or inflammatory diseases. These conditions can slow healing or cause swelling.
- Certain medicines. Some medications can suppress the immune system or cause swelling. That makes it harder for ulcers to heal.
- Infections. Infections can spread or get into the bloodstream, reducing healing.
- Obesity. Excess weight puts pressure on veins in the legs, so ulcers take longer to heal.
Venous ulcer risk factors
Factors that affect blood flow in the legs can put you at a higher risk of venous ulcers.
- Blood clots (deep vein thrombosis).
- Standing for long periods.
- Uncontrolled swelling.
- Older age.
- Sitting for long periods with legs dangling or positioned below heart level.
- Family history of ulcers.
- Sedentary lifestyle.
- Lymphedema (a blockage in the lymphatic system).
- Personal history of venous ulcers.
- Trauma, such as a fracture or burn.
Venous ulcer complications
Venous ulcers often heal slowly and can be hard to treat. They lead to an open wound, which carries a risk of causing problems.
Some complications of venous ulcers include:
- Infection. Bacteria, viruses, or fungi can lead to infection of the wound. Some severe infections, such as osteomyelitis or septicemia, can occur and require antibiotics.
- Worsening or nonhealing ulcer. An untreated ulcer or underlying