An open sore of any kind is never a pleasant affair, but those that usually form near the ankles present their own unique set of challenges. Called venous ulcers, these slow-healing wounds require a higher standard of care because of the high risk of infection.
At Advanced Vein & Laser Center, our vascular specialists, Dr. Steven Heird and Dr. David Winand, partner with you to ensure better vascular health. As part of our efforts, we believe that education and awareness are key, which is why we’ve pulled together the following primer on venous ulcers.
How do you know if you have a venous ulcer?
A venous ulcer, which is also called a stasis ulcer, is an open wound that develops anywhere from your knees down to your ankles, though these ulcers primarily show up around your ankles.
The wound typically starts as a superficial sore on the surface of your skin, but left untreated, can go fairly deep, reaching as far as your muscle or your bone.
These ulcers affect 1% of the population in the United States, becoming more prevalent with age (the incidence rate increases to 4% over the age of 65).
Venous ulcers are not only characterized by location, but in their inability to heal — 33-60% of venous ulcers last for more than six weeks.
What causes venous ulcers?
The primary culprit behind venous ulcers is a problem with the valves in the veins in your lower legs. In order to deliver blood back to your heart, fighting distance and gravity along the way, your veins are equipped with tiny valves that shut as your blood passes through, preventing it from spilling backward.
As your muscles contract and the valves shut, your blood makes its way back to your heart for recirculation. When these valves fail, it causes higher-than-normal blood pressure in your lower legs, which can lead to ulcerations.
You may also succumb to venous ulcers due to varicose veins or chronic venous insufficiency. Certain factors put you more at risk for these problems, including:
- Carrying extra weight
- Age (your valves weaken as you age)
- Lack of exercise
- Trauma to your lower legs
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Being on your feet all day
Treating venous ulcers
If you’ve developed a venous ulcer, it’s incredibly important that you seek treatment to avoid an infection. The goal with venous ulcers is to avoid them altogether. We not only treat the current ulcer but provide you with some tips to avoid venous ulcers in the future, such as:
- Eliminating varicose veins (which we can do)
- Wearing compression socks
- Routinely elevating your feet
- Exercising and losing weight