Chronic leg ulcers can be caused by a number of different factors, including arterial disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis; however, in the vast majority of cases, leg ulcers develop secondary to venous diseases such as varicose veins or blood clots.

What Causes Venous Leg Ulcers?

Venous leg ulcers most commonly occur above the ankles or on the legs and are caused by increased pressure in the veins. This pressure causes gradual weakening of the vein walls and of the one-way vein valves responsible for pumping the blood in the right direction, resulting in enlarged and bulging varicose veins. Secondary to this swelling, the pressure on the skin above the affected vein is increased, and the blood flow to the skin may be reduced, resulting in reduced nutrient delivery to the skin and in the skin becoming fragile and unhealthy.

When the skin barrier is compromised, even minor bumps or scratches can cause bleeding and wound formation, and in severe cases, there is a risk of infection of these wounds. Additionally, when the skin does not receive all of its necessary nutrients, its wound healing capability is greatly reduced, and seemingly small and insignificant wounds can spread into the deep tissues and cause significant problems.

The increased venous pressure responsible for the development of varicose veins and venous ulcers can result from a number of factors, including weight gain or pregnancy, cigarette smoking, certain medications and genetic factors. Additionally, varicose veins can be caused by living a sedentary lifestyle as well as by prolonged sitting or standing.

How Are Venous Leg Ulcers Treated?

Conservative leg ulcer treatments include elevation of the leg, the use of pressure stockings or bandages, moisturizing of the skin and direct treatment of the ulcer itself (such as maintaining it clean and performing wound debridement if needed). It usually takes between three and four months for an ulcer to heal completely, but the outcomes are generally favorable, especially when the diagnosis and treatment are prompt. To avoid new ulcers from developing, however, the best treatment strategy is to treat the underlying cause.

For example, losing weight, exercising and quitting smoking may be beneficial, and if varicose veins are present, as is the case in the majority of cases, varicose vein removal can help prevent leg ulcers from developing in the first place.

There are a number of different Atlanta varicose vein treatments that can be tailored specifically to your individual needs according to the size and severity of your varicose veins. If the varicose veins are treated when they first appear before any other symptoms develop, the risk of venous leg ulcers is greatly reduced, potentially saving you from months of subsequent suffering.