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Leg Ulcers: What You Need To Know!

May 25, 2018


Approximately 500,000 people across the UK suffer with painful and uncomfortable recurring ulcers. But despite the fact that it is such a common concern, there is often much confusion over what the condition actually is and how the condition can be treated.

What Are Leg Ulcers?

Leg Ulcers are open, non-healing wounds of the legs, usually the lower legs or the feet. They occur when the skin has broken down to reveal open sores which are unable to naturally heal, and can often become infected if not treated correctly.

Ulcers can be big or small, painful or not painful, smelly or not smelly, wet or dry. There many different appearances of ulcers which can make the condition even more difficult to spot or understand.

What Causes Leg Ulcers?

A leg ulcer is usually caused by an injury that breaks the skin. In most people, an injury will heal up without difficulty, however when there is an underlying problem the skin does not heal properly and the area of breakdown can become an ulcer.

The most common problem leading to the development of ulcers is when there is a problem with the circulation of blood in your leg veins – often referred to as hidden varicose veins or venous reflux. This increases the pressure inside the veins which gradually damages the tiny blood vessels in your skin, making it fragile and more susceptible to developing a ‘venous leg ulcer.

A second, and less common, problem is caused by poor circulation of blood in the arteries, which may result in an ‘arterial leg ulcer’. Arterial ulcers are less common than venous ulcers, however they are the most important to diagnose. This is because arterial ulcers are a sign that the leg does not have enough blood supply to keep it alive and, if not restored, can lead to gangrene.

Surgeons at The Whiteley Clinic, always check for other causes as well as arterial causes before treating Venous Leg Ulcers. This is essential as many leg ulcers occur in older people and they may have more than one cause for their leg ulcers.

How Are Leg Ulcers Treated?

In the vast majority of cases leg ulcers are completely curable with the right treatment. The basic principle of curing a leg ulcer is very simple; find out the underlying cause of the leg ulcer and correct it.

For various reasons many health professionals will not make their patients aware of this, and instead will offer less effective temporary solutions – such as dressings and bandages. Although these temporary solutions can improve the ulcer surface and even temporarily heal the skin, the ulcer will usually break open again as the underlying cause is not addressed.

For anyone suffering with a ‘venous leg ulcer’, it is important to visit a vascular specialist. Vascular specialists will use a duplex ultrasound scan to identify which veins have lost their valves and are allowing venous reflux to occur, and can close these problematic veins under local anaesthetic using combination of treatments, including;

  • Endovenous laser ablation
  • Radiofrequency ablation
  • Foam sclerotherapy
  • Phlebectomy
  • Perforator vein closure (TRLOP)

Once the underlying problem has been addressed, the ulcer healing usually follows within 3 to 6 months provided the patient is walking well and the ulcer isn’t perpetuated by constant dressing. To book a consultation or to find out more about Leg Ulcers please call 0330 058 1850 or email info@thewhiteleyclinic.co.uk

The contents of this site are for informational purposes only and are meant to be discussed with your doctor or other qualified health care professional before being acted on. Always seek the advice of a doctor or other licensed health care professional regarding any questions you have about your medical condition(s) and treatment(s). This site and the information provided is not a substitute for medical advice.