Aside from causing complications with blood flow, conditions of the vascular system can also affect the skin and other systems of the body. Also known as a stasis leg ulcer, a venous skin ulcer is a small wound that appears on the skin when the leg veins do not carry blood back to the heart, a condition known as venous insufficiency. Venous skin ulcers develop on the lower leg as a complication of long-term untreated venous insufficiency, and can cause pain, odor, pus, tenderness and redness. Treating venous skin ulcers is usually effective, but this condition can often be prevented by treating venous insufficiency as soon as it occurs.
Venous skin ulcers develop on the skin after the blood vessels in the leg and the surrounding tissue break down, leaving a visible ulcer on the skin. These ulcers are often found above the ankle and below the calf. The skin in the affected area may appear dark red or purple and may feel thickened, dry and itchy. Ulcers can also cause pain, swelling and aching.
Patients with untreated venous insufficiency have a high risk of ulcers forming in areas where blood is building up. Pregnant women, as well as those who suffer from deep vein thrombosis and/or obesity, have an increased risk of developing ulcers. Patients can help reduce their risk of developing ulcers by avoiding smoking and alcohol, exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet and taking frequent breaks from standing for long periods of time.
It is important to treat venous skin ulcers as soon as they appear to help facilitate the healing process and prevent infection. Most venous skin ulcers can be treated by improving circulation in the affected area. This can be done by elevating your legs above the level of your heart and by wearing compression stockings to prevent blood from building up in the legs. Skin grafting or vein surgery may be needed to treat ulcers that do not heal within six months or that become infected. Your doctor will decide which treatment option is best for you.