A leg ulcer is when there is a break in the skin of the leg which then allows air and bacteria into the wound. Leg ulcers are caused by either the veins, arteries or both in the leg being diseased. The most common underlying problem is venous disease which accounts for up to 80% of all leg ulcers. 15% of leg ulcers are arterial problems with 5% being mixed or from other causes such as diabetes.
A venous leg ulcer is caused when the valves in your veins in your leg become faulty and stop carrying blood back to your heart. Your veins have valves that help to stop the blood from traveling back to your foot and these become less effective and the veins become distended. This then results in high pressure in your veins which, as a result, can cause leg ulcers in your legs.
An ulcer will normally be caused by an injury to the skin. In a healthy patient, you would normally heal over a few weeks. However, if you have an underlying problem, the skin does not heal and the injury can get bigger in size.
Venous leg ulcers tend to cause significant pain and discomfort. This is often due to the infection on the top of the ulcer. The bandages and compression that needs to be applied when trying to heal the ulcer may also cause pain.
The leg may also suffer from swelling and there may also be itching and irritation due both the ulcer and the dressings applied.
When managing and treating a leg ulcer, there are several ways in which you can try to assist in the healing of the ulcer:
Compression Bandaging & Dressing
In order to maintain the pressure on the ulcer and the veins in your leg when you stand up, you may be treated with compression bandaging and stockings. The compression bandaging will be needed to help to control the pressure to the veins. You will also have a number of dressings to help to heal the ulcer and these will change according to the healing process of the ulcer.
After the ulcer has healed, you will be required to wear compression stockings to help to prevent the ulcer from coming back. These stockings are measured specifically to your legs and you may require a special support applicator as they can be difficult to put on.
In some cases, you may require to have surgery to help to heal the ulcer. This can either be with a skin graft, if the ulcer is large, or by treating the faulty veins. These can be treated either by endothermal treatments, such as radiofrequency, or by conventional surgery.
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