What is a venous skin ulcer?
Ulcers can occur anywhere on the body and sometimes they occur on the leg. Venous ulcers are quite common in the North American population. They typically occur in individuals who have venous insufficiency conditions like varicose veins. These ulcers are usually seen in the 4-5th decade of life and are common in both men and women. Venous ulcers typically occur on the inside of the ankle (medial) and are shallow painful ulcers surrounded by skin discoloration. Venous ulcers occur because the thin veins in the legs are not able to push the blood out and engorgement of the veins occurs. These ulcers are some of the most difficult to treat. Treatment is slow and the results are not immediate.
What causes venous skin ulcers?
Venous ulcers are caused when the blood starts to pool in the superficial veins of the leg. The superficial veins are thin walled and have very little muscle layer. If the vein gets damaged or if the one way valves are injured, the blood just stays in the leg. Over time, the leg swells up from the engorged veins and the blood pigments leak out into the tissue. The blood pigments react with skin and cause an intense dark discoloration. Because the skin is so fragile, it tends to break down and this results in a venous ulcer.
What are the symptoms?
Venous ulcers do not happen overnight and are a gradual process. The first signs of a venous ulcer are:
a. skin discoloration
b. itchy skin
c. hard and thick skin
d. pain which is moderate to intense, and may be continuous
e. open skin with a shallow round ulcer
g. red indurated skin
h. swollen feet or legs
i. evidence of varicose veins
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