Leg Ulcers: Causes, Symptoms and Prevention


Leg ulcers are often caused by circulatory conditions, as a result of increased pressure within the affected limbs and are referred to as venous leg ulcers. A skin ulcer is basically an area of broken-down skin, revealing flesh beneath and can often be painful and subject to infection.


Venous leg ulcers are most common amongst older patients, particularly women, although anyone with a circulatory issue is potentially susceptible. Most circulatory problems see an excess of fluid build-up around the affected veins, causing swelling and inflammation of the surrounding skin, which in turn can break under the pressure, resulting in the formation of an ulcer.


Visual examination is usually sufficient for the diagnosis of venous leg ulcers, but other tests may be emplyed, such as blood, blood pressure, urine and ultrasound. These can help to identify any potential underlying problems.


Prompt and effective treatment of venous leg ulcers is important to minimise its development and reduce the risk of associated problems such as further inflammation or in some cases dermatitis. Medical compression stockings or bandages are particularly effective in treating these ulcers by improving circulation and thus reducing pressure within the legs. Compression is strongest at the lowest part of the leg and reduces going upwards to the thigh, encouraging blood flow back up the limb. If worn everyday, these stockings or bandages can not only help to heal existing ulcers, but also prevent the occurrence of new ones.

Exercise is also significant in encouraging and maintaining healthy blood flow and compression stockings should be worn for any physical activity. Walking is particularly beneficial and long periods of inactivity should be avoided. When sitting, simple rotations of the feet and ankles can help, as can elevation of the legs to above the hips. Good hygiene is essential to prevent infection and any ulcers should be cleaned regularly.