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What Are Venous Ulcers?

You knew you had a sore on your ankle, but did you know it is a symptom of a more serious problem?  At Texas Vein & Cosmetic Specialists we regularly treat patients with venous ulcers in Houston, Texas.  Venous ulcers occur because you have a circulation problem in your legs, one that is treatable. The first step is to learn more about the sore on your leg, what is causing it and how vein doctors can help.

What is a Venous Ulcer?

A venous ulcer, or stasis leg ulcer, is a sign that the vein network in that leg is not working properly. Ulcers form because blood is pooling under the skin. The pooling blood puts pressure on the skin, causing it to break down. If the skin degrades enough, the surface layer opens to form the ulcer.

Venous ulcers are difficult to heal and often return. This is what medical professionals refer to as a chronic problem, meaning it comes back repeatedly. The key to getting rid of the ulcer for good is to treat the underlying cause – venous insufficiency.

What is Venous Insufficiency?

The veins have one-way valves built into the walls that help move blood upward towards the heart. This feature is critical in the legs, because the blood is affected by the pull of gravity. Muscles in the vein walls squeeze to push blood upward against gravity. When this happens, the valves open to allow the blood to move forward.

When the muscle relaxes, the valves close. This is why blood doesn’t move backward towards the ankles. When a valve closes, the blood is trapped until the next muscle contraction.

As a person ages, the walls of the veins lose some of their elasticity. The result is valves that leak. When they close, there is a gap that allows blood to move back down and pool there. That section of the vein becomes engorged and the vein swells. This is venous insufficiency. Left untreated, it will lead to venous ulcers around the ankles and lower leg.

How are Venous Ulcers Treated?

The Houston area vein clinic will assess your leg health to determine if your arterial circulation is intact. The doctor will evaluate the vein network in your legs, as well, and treat the venous insufficiency to prevent any more ulcers from forming.

Vascular surgeons will prescribe a comprehensive wound care program to facilitate healing of the ulcers. Treatment options vary, but the most common includes the use of compression stockings impregnated with medication. The doctor will advise you to keep the leg elevated when possible, as well, to relieve the pressure behind the ulcer and promote healing.

It is easier to prevent ulcers from forming than to heal them afterwards. Watch for pigment changes in the skin, known as venous staining. This is an indication there is fluid built up in your leg and you need to see a doctor for varicose vein treatment.

Related post: How do I know if I have Venous Stasis Ulcers?

Related post: Leg Ulcers: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Dr. Michael Bardwil
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