Leg ulcers are unhealed sores or open
wounds on the legs. Without treatment, these types of ulcers can keep
recurring. This condition is most commonly caused by poor circulation, though
it may be attributed to a variety of ailments. These wounds are also more
common in women, but they can affect both men and women of any age. If they’re
treated early, leg ulcers can improve without causing any further
Causes of Leg Ulcers
The odds of developing leg ulcers
increase with age, and they’re often hereditary — in other words, if your
parents had leg ulcers, you’re more likely to develop them.
Some other causes of leg ulcers are:
which are swollen and visible veins, are frequently associated with leg ulcers.
And often, leg ulcers are a complication of untreated varicose veins. However,
the two conditions aren’t always found together.
Symptoms of Leg Ulcers
The symptoms of leg ulcers can vary
depending on their exact cause. Ulcers are often painful. But sometimes ulcers
present with no pain this is due to nerve damage from mismanaged diabetes. A
lack of pain is one reason why many patients misdiagnose themselves and fail to
seek medical treatment.
It’s important to make an appointment
with your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- open sores
- pus in the affected area
- pain in the affected area
- increasing wound size
- leg swelling
- enlarged veins
- generalized pain or heaviness in the
Diagnosing Leg Ulcers
Your doctor will perform a physical
examination combined with testing to diagnose your leg ulcers and determine
their exact cause. Often times, your doctor will be able to differentiate
between a leg ulcer and regular sore just by looking at it. They’ll likely
order a variety of tests to determine the right treatment plan, including:
- CT scan, which is an imaging scan that takes fine detail cross-sectional X-rays
- MRI scan, which uses a powerful
magnet and radio waves to create a detailed picture of the affected area
- noninvasive vascular studies using ultrasound (the use of high-frequency sound
waves to detect problems and blockages in the blood vessels)
Treating Leg Ulcers
Treating leg ulcers is crucial to
relieve pain, prevent infection, and to stop the wound from growing in size. If
pus is draining from your ulcer, you likely have an infection. Infections are
treated with antibiotics to avoid further complications. Compression bandages
are also used to help ease swelling, close the wound, and prevent infection. Your
doctor may also prescribe an ointment to apply to the ulcer.
In severe cases, your doctor may
order orthotics, or braces, to help you walk better while preventing future
ulcers. Pentoxifylline may
be prescribed to improve the circulation in your legs.
Your doctor may also recommend
aspirin to prevent blood clots in the legs, but it’s important that you don’t
start any medication without first consulting your doctor.
Along with medical treatment, your
doctor may recommend home remedies to ease discomfort and assist in healing.
First, it’s important to keep any wounds clean to prevent infection. Wash the
wound with mild soap and water daily. Also, change any bandages and dressings at
least once daily to keep the area dry, so it can heal. Your doctor will give
you a specific routine to follow.
Other home remedies that may help
with healing include:
- wearing good walking shoes
- getting regular, mild- to moderate-intensity
- during rest periods, elevating your
Never use home or alternative methods
in lieu of traditional medical treatment without checking with your doctor.
These remedies may very well be beneficial but they can also aggravate the
condition, depending on the preparation and the stage of your ulcers.
Preventing Leg Ulcers
Since poor circulation is the most
common cause of leg ulcers, it makes sense to control conditions that can cause
poor circulation, like:
healthy with a sensible diet and regular exercise can reduce your weight,
thereby decreasing your risk of leg ulcers. Decreasing your sodium intake is
also important. You can do this by:
fresh foods, not packaged
nutrition labels and checking for sodium content
smoking increases your risk for ulcers. If you smoke, try to quit.
Outlook for Leg Ulcers
In most cases, treatment is effective
in easing the symptoms of leg ulcers. If they’re not treated in a timely
fashion, it’s possible that a leg ulcer can become infected. In severe cases, infection
can spread to the bone. It’s essential to see your doctor as soon as you notice