Affecting roughly 1 percent of the U.S. population, venous ulcers, also known as venous stasis ulcers, are open wounds usually found around the ankles and lower legs. This type of wound usually takes time to heal, sometimes taking weeks, months, or even longer in some occasions.
Venous ulcers are caused by poor blood circulation from the lower legs which leads to a backup of fluid. The veins have one-way valves that allow blood to flow toward the heart. For someone suffering from venous insufficiency, the valves get damaged causing blood to back up and pool in the vein. When this happens, fluid may leak out of the vein and into the surrounding tissue which can then lead to tissue breakdown and ulcer.
This type of ulcer is common in people who have varicose veins as well as those who have a history of leg swelling.
Venous ulcers often occur due to underlying conditions that affect wound healing and damages the skin such as the following.
Blood clots - since blood clots block the vein, it also reduces blood flow to the lower leg.
Certain Medication - this pertains to medicines that suppress the immune system or cause swelling. It makes ulcers more difficult to heal under such conditions.
Diabetes, kidney failure, or inflammatory diseases - since these conditions can slow down healing and cause swelling, they also increase the possibility of venous ulcer formation.
Infections - infections can keep the wound from healing in a timely manner and can spread into the bloodstream.
Obesity - when you’re overweight, the excess weight puts pressure on the veins causing wounds to take longer to heal.
Varicose veins - as mentioned, people with varicose veins are more vulnerable to venous ulcers since blood pooling in the lower leg likely leads to venous ulcers.
Venous hypertension - blood pressure in the legs usually drops when we walk and when that doesn’t happen, it leads to venous hypertension which can then lead to venous ulcer.
Venous insufficiency - the inability of the leg veins to pump blood back to the heart causes blood pooling which can then lead to swelling. If the swelling doesn’t go away anytime soon, it can damage the skin and make it difficult for the body to heal.
There are several treatment options available for venous stasis ulcers and below are some of them:
Compression therapy can come in the form of multi-layered compression wraps and therapeutic support stockings. Keep in mind though that arterial disease must be ruled out before resorting to compression therapy since it could lead to either ischemia and/or amputation.
Optimize venous return
This can be achieved by elevating the legs above heart level. With this form of treatment, sitting with legs crossed is highly discouraged as well as standing for long periods of time.
Topical treatments are also available although this would depend on the type of exudate. For light exudate, Hydrogel, Honey Gauze, and Collagen are recommended while Calcium Alginate, Foam, Collagen, and Honey Alginate are preferred for moderate to heavy exudate.