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Leg ulcers can be painful and quickly deteriorate a person’s quality of life. However, early treatment can reduce the pain and speed up healing. Awareness and early management can also reduce the need for expensive treatments when delayed.
At CACVI, we stay at the top of our game when it comes to advancements in the treatment of vascular issues, including leg ulcers. We have a team of vascular health experts. Medical professionals like Dr. M. Lala, are experts in diagnosing and treating leg ulcers, with more than 30 years experience in the field. If you or someone you love suspect you have leg ulcers, call our clinic for preventative measures.
In this article, we will go in-depth into the concept of leg ulcers and share visual aids, such as leg ulcers pictures.
When to Seek Medical Help?
If you notice persistent symptoms like leg swelling, changes in skin color or texture, or areas of the skin that feel unusually warm or cool, seek medical advice. Also, reach out to a vascular professional for any unexplained leg pain or discomfort, especially if it worsens when walking.
You should be cautious when you notice any cuts, scrapes, or wounds on the legs that do not heal within a reasonable timeframe. Noticeable changes in the veins in your legs, such as new varicose veins or veins that become more prominent could also be a red flag.
Types of Leg Ulcers
The prevalence of leg ulcers is significant, particularly among the elderly and those with underlying health conditions like diabetes or circulatory issues.
Awareness of leg ulcers is crucial as it helps with early treatment. Untreated leg ulcers can lead to serious complications.
Leg ulcers are open wounds or sores that develop on the skin. You’d usually see them at the lower legs or around the ankles. These ulcers can arise from various causes, including poor circulation (venous insufficiency), prolonged pressure on the skin, etc.
There are different types of leg ulcers. They are:
1. Venous Leg Ulcers
Venous leg ulcers are caused by poor blood circulation. It is often due to chronic venous insufficiency. A venous leg ulcer would typically occur on the inner part of the leg, just above the ankle.
Venous ulcers are usually shallow with irregular borders. There is usually swelling on the surrounding skin and has a reddish-brown color, and may have a hardened texture.
2. Arterial Leg Ulcers
Arterial leg ulcers are caused by poor blood circulation also, often due to peripheral arterial disease. They are commonly found on the feet, especially on the heels, tips of toes, or any area where there is pressure. Arterial ulcers are also known as ischemic ulcers or ischemic wounds.
This type of leg ulcer is typically deep and has a “punched-out” appearance. The surrounding skin may be pale with minimal to no hair growth.
3. Neuropathic Ulcers
A neuropathic leg ulcer is primarily associated with diabetic neuropathy. Here, nerve damage leads to a loss of sensation in the feet. They often develop at pressure points on the feet.
This type of leg ulcer is usually found on the bottom of the feet and may be surrounded by callused or thickened skin. Due to reduced sensation, they are often not so painful.
4. Rare and Atypical Ulcers
This category includes leg ulcers caused by rare conditions such as vasculitis, infections, malignancies, or genetic disorders. They can vary significantly in appearance and location, depending on the underlying cause.
Causes and Risk Factors
Leg ulcers are often a result from underlying health issues that impair blood circulation, such as venous insufficiency, arterial disease, or diabetes. Other contributing factors include prolonged immobility, obesity, and certain genetic predispositions. Understanding the diverse causes and risk factors for leg ulcers is crucial for effective prevention and treatment strategies.
1. Venous Insufficiency
Venous insufficiency occurs when leg veins do not effectively circulate blood to the heart. This inefficiency can lead to increased pressure in these veins, causing varicose veins. When there is increased pressure on the veins, it causes fluid to leak into surrounding skin tissue, leading to skin changes and eventually venous leg ulcers.
2. Arterial Disease
Arterial disease, such as atherosclerosis, results in narrowed or blocked arteries, reducing blood flow to the legs. This lack of blood flow can cause skin and tissue to break down, leading to ulcers.
3. Diabetes and Neuropathy
High blood sugar levels associated with diabetes can lead to nerve damage, particularly in the feet. This neuropathy can result in a loss of sensation, making it difficult to notice injuries or pressure spots, which can develop into ulcers.
4. Lifestyle and Other Risk Factors
Lifestyle factors Smoking impairs circulation and wound healing, increasing the risk of having a leg ulcer. Obesity can also put additional pressure on veins, leading to varicose veins and venous leg ulcers. Other risk factors include advanced age, a sedentary lifestyle, and a history of leg injuries or surgery.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
For those with any type of leg ulcer, early signs include skin changes and leg swelling. There are usually changes to the skin color and the skin becomes hard or thick around the ankles or lower leg. These people would also experience leg swelling, especially after prolonged standing or sitting. There would also be itchy sensations or tingling in the affected areas.
As the condition progresses, these symptoms may worsen or evolve. Typically, there would be intensified pain around the leg ulcer area. There could also be the development of an open sore or wound that does not heal quickly.
You may also notice discharge or fluid coming from the leg ulcer area. It gets worse when infection sets in as a foul odor may start coming from the area. The leg would also be more swollen around the ulcer.
To diagnose leg ulcers, a healthcare professional will examine the leg and ulcer, noting the size, depth, and location of the ulcer, as well as any signs of infection. They will also review the medical history of the patients.
In some cases, a tissue sample from the ulcer may be taken to check for dead tissue or rule out the ulcer. This process is called Biopsy. Some diagnostic procedures include blood tests and imaging tests.
Treatment and Management
Do ulcers heal? Medical treatment is typically the go-to solution for leg ulcers. This involves thorough and regular cleaning and dressing of the ulcer to prevent infection and promote healing. It also removes dead tissue and skin.
A doctor can recommend medications like topical antibiotics in cases of infections or pain relievers to manage discomfort. They can also prescribe medications to improve circulation.
Particularly for venous ulcers, there would be the recommendation of compression stockings and compression therapy to improve blood circulation. In some cases, surgical intervention may be needed for the leg ulcer.
Lifestyle modifications come in handy in managing leg ulcers. We recommend having a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals as they help the wound heal.
Regular exercise such as walking can improve circulation. However, do not put too much pressure on the leg, especially in cases of varicose veins. Weight loss can also reduce pressure on the legs.
Elevating the legs above the level of the heart several times a day can help reduce leg swelling and improve circulation.
Worried About your Leg Ulcers?
Leg ulcers are open wounds on the lower legs, often caused by poor circulation. Symptoms and early signs Include skin changes, pain, swelling, and the eventual formation of a sore. Early detection is crucial for effective treatment.
A balanced diet, regular exercise, smoking cessation, and proper management of chronic conditions are vital for both treatment and prevention. Regular inspection and care of the legs, managing risk factors, and seeking medical advice for any concerning symptoms are also helpful.
As an organization specializing in vascular health, CACVI is an expert at carrying out comprehensive evaluations and giving personalized treatment plans to patients. Reach out to us today for a consultation!