Venous ulcers can be painful and difficult to treat. Knowing how they form is essential to treating them before they advance.
Venous ulcers, also called vascular, stasis or varicose ulcers, form when the veins in the lower extremities do not allow for sufficient blood flow back to the heart. They typically appear as dark purple or red blotches under the skin on the inside of the leg between the ankle and the calf. Over time, they can ulcerate, creating an open wound that is painful, inflamed and itchy. These ulcers are typically slow to heal and can harbor infection as a result.
Recognizing the signs
If you notice a dark bruiselike area forming on one or both of your lower legs, contact your doctor immediately. Treating these pools of stagnant blood before they turn into ulcers is extremely important.
The first step in treating venous ulcers is to promote blood circulation. Alternate lying down with your feet propped up to the level of your heart with daily walking. Physical activity helps the blood to move through your body more efficiently. Even after an ulcer has healed, wearing compression stockings at all times (except for bathing and sleep) will also help to encourage the blood to continue to circulate properly.
Recurring ulcers may require skin grafts or surgery.
Although venous ulcers can be caused by other problems, they are often caused by lifestyle issues such as smoking, obesity and inactivity. Maintaining a healthful diet and a regimen of regular exercise can help prevent a multitude of problems, including the formation of venous ulcers.
It is important to remember that if an ulcer has formed, early treatment is usually more successful than waiting until the ulcer has become larger or infected. If you think you may be at risk for venous ulcers or other circulatory problems, talk with your doctor.