Leg ulcers are open sores on your ankles and legs which won’t heal within a four-week period and they are very painful. The symptoms of a leg ulcer are extremely obvious and you can’t miss them: pain, swelling and itching in the affected area, as well as hardened, discolored skin around the sore and potentially some liquid discharge.
Leg ulcers don’t just show up out of the clear blue sky. Sometimes they are caused by an injury that broke the skin, but mostly they are related to non-functioning venous or arterial valves:
- 80% of leg ulcers are caused by a venous disease, such as chronic venous insufficiency, varicose veins and other conditions.
- 15% of leg ulcers are caused by an arterial disease and conditions related to mal-functioning arteries.
- 5% of leg ulcers are the result of other conditions, such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.
As you can see, the statistics about leg ulcers related to varicose veins is merciless. So what exactly is it about varicose veins that can lead to such an unsightly and painful result? The answer is the same as with other venous disorders and complications – non-functioning vein valves. You need your vein valves healthy because they allow blood to flow from the legs toward the heart against gravity, preventing venous reflux (reverse flow). If the valves are damaged or the vein wall is too weak, the blood pools in the legs, which results in formation of varicose veins or their enlargement. Poor blood circulation also leads to a very high pressure in the veins when standing up, and if left untreated, within time it can end up in damaged skin and leg ulcers.
Treating leg ulcers is extremely difficult and the recurrence rate exceedingly high, so prevention is of paramount importance. This can be done through long-term use of compression hosiery and treating the actual venous disorders as soon as possible to avoid leg ulcers from forming. If you are already experiencing symptoms of a vein disorder or suffering from chronic venous insufficiency or varicose veins, get your legs examined before it’s too late!