We Need to Talk About Venous Leg Ulcers

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April 15, 2024

Reviewed by Dr. Kenneth Harper, MD


Are you struggling with open sores or wounds on your leg that won’t heal or they heal only to open again in a few months? If so you may have a common medical condition known as venous leg ulcer(s) or VLU. VLU are painful, embarrassing, and can break your budget with medical bills and lost time at work. If you have one or more leg ulcers, you are not alone. Millions of Americans with VLU have lost hope of getting better. But if you have a VLU we have good news, there is hope to be better.

In this blog, you will learn what you need to know about leg ulcers. At Vein Specialists of the South (VSS) in Georgia, we value patient education and providing the best treatment for chronic vein disease and leg ulcers. We understand it is difficult to find specialists who can identify the root cause of your concerns and provide the treatments you need to heal your leg ulcer. Not only do we offer specialty vein and wound care we also recommend lifestyle changes you can make for ‘better looking and better-feeling legs’. We are here to guide you to the answers you need for your VLU so that you can enjoy life again with your family, work, and play.

Understanding the Venous System

If you want to understand leg ulcers, it is important to know about the venous system.

There are 3 parts of the venous system: the pipes, pumps, and valves. The veins are the conduit or pipes through which your venous blood flows back to your heart. If you are standing or sitting this flow is ‘against the forces of gravity’. Your calf muscles are the pump that propels the blood up your veins. If you are standing or sitting, the calf pump propels the venus flow to overcome the forces of gravity. The one-way vein check valves allow the blood to flow up your vein when your calf muscles contract and prevent it from falling back down when your muscles relax.

Chronic Venous Disease and Leg Ulcer Connection

If any part of your venous system fails you are at risk of developing chronic venous disease including leg ulcers. The most common problem leading to chronic venous disease is weakened or damaged one-way check valves that allow the blood to ‘fall back’ or reflux down the veins. Venous reflux causes blood to pool in the superficial veins. As the pressure builds, the ‘veins’ dilate, enlarge, and sometimes appear as twisted or varicose veins on your legs. Blood clots in your superficial veins (SVT) can damage the vein or pipe leading to vein problems. And anything that limits your ability to ambulate can impact the efficiency of your muscle pump leading to swelling and vein problems.

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) contributes to a large percentage of leg ulcers. Impaired vein function can cause a range of symptoms, including swelling, pain, and skin changes. If left untreated, underlying vein disease can progress to the formation of leg ulcers. That is why it is essential to identify and manage venous disease early. Early intervention can prevent almost all VLU leg ulcers! 

Unraveling Venous Leg Ulcers

leg ulcers on swollen legs
Leg ulcer on the left leg (public domain)

Leg ulcers (VLU) typically manifest as painful, open sores on the skin of the lower leg just above the ankles that don’t heal, or if they do they often recur within a year. Leg ulcers are a sign of advanced vein disease. The problem is most doctors are unaware of the underlying cause of leg ulcers, which is often poor venous blood circulation. If your CVI is not diagnosed and treated, the long-term healing of these leg ulcers is elusive.

At first, leg ulcers might appear shallow but can become quite deep over time. Combined with surrounding skin discoloration ranging from red to dark brown or even black may appear. These changes signify inflammation of the skin and soft tissue damage in the area. Over time the skin’s protective barriers may fail and oozing from the skin may occur.

Despite their daunting appearance, understanding the visual aspects of leg ulcers is a crucial step toward early detection and management. Further understanding how common this condition is goes a long way toward helping patients seek care without embarrassment.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) and Venous Leg Ulcers (VLU)

Identifying the early signs and symptoms of CVI and VLU leg ulcers is key to seeking timely treatment and preventing the condition from worsening. Here are some signs you should be aware of:

  • Visible varicose veins: Early signs of CVI are the appearance of bulging varicose veins on your legs.
  • Spider Veins: Spider veins may be a sign of underlying vein problems.
  • Persistent Pain: One of the first and most common symptoms is continuous pain in the affected area. This discomfort can range from a dull ache to severe throbbing.
  • Skin Changes: Look out for changes in the skin around the lower legs and ankles, such as hardening, discoloration (often a darkening or reddening of the skin), and eczema.
  • Swelling: Swelling in the legs or ankles is a typical sign, especially if it worsens throughout the day or with prolonged periods of standing or sitting.
  • Venous Eczema: This is characterized by itchy, red, and swollen skin around the ankles and is often an early indicator of underlying venous issues.
  • Leg Heaviness or Fatigue: A feeling of heaviness or persistent fatigue in the legs, not related to physical activity, can also signal poor venous circulation and the potential for leg ulcers.
  • Open Wounds or Sores: Any open sore or wound on the leg or near the ankle that doesn’t heal or keeps returning should be promptly evaluated. These sores might initially appear as small, weeping areas but can quickly worsen without treatment.

Being aware of these signs and symptoms and seeing a vein specialist for an evaluation can improve the outcome of any treatment for CVI and lower your risk of developing leg ulcers. If you already have leg ulcers, we recommend seeing a vein specialist.

Similarities Between the Symptoms of Leg Ulcers and Venous Disease

The symptoms of leg ulcers closely mirror those of venous disease, underscoring the deep connection between the two conditions. This similarity points to venous insufficiency as a primary cause of leg ulcers. For instance, the persistent pain and discomfort experienced in areas prone to ulcers echo the throbbing and aching sensations associated with venous disease. Similarly, the skin changes seen in both conditions, such as hardening and discoloration, directly reflect the impact of compromised venous blood circulation. Swelling, another common symptom, arises from fluid buildup due to ineffective venous return. Additionally, venous eczema and the sensation of leg heaviness or fatigue further link leg ulcers to underlying venous issues, emphasizing the need for a thorough vein evaluation as part of the management and prevention of leg ulcers. Recognizing these overlapping symptoms can be key in early detection and prompt treatment, potentially staving off more severe complications.


It’s just 3 easy steps…

Vein Specialists of the South Macon


Vein Specialists of the South Macon


Vein Specialists of the South Macon





Better Veins for Life Principles: Preventing CVI and VLU Leg Ulcers Through Lifestyle Changes

walking is a good exercise to prevent venous disease and leg ulcers

Effective Treatment Solutions for CVI

Treating CVI starts with fully assessing deep and superficial systems for venous disease. At VSS, we approach vein care with a holistic custom treatment plan designed to meet your needs and delivered with WOW service.

Effective Treatment Solutions for VLU Leg Ulcers

Treating VLU leg ulcers starts with fully assessing the deep and superficial venous systems for insufficiency. At Vein Specialists of the South, we offer an advanced wound care approach for your VLU care.

Your Venous Wound Care Team at VSS provides customized individualized vein and wound care designed to meet your needs delivered with WOW service.

Advanced wound care techniques to promote healing for leg ulcers include:

  • Good skin and wound care
  • Control of swelling
  • Advance skin products to promote healing
  • Treating underlying vein disease

It’s crucial to seek a vein and wound care specialist for an accurate diagnosis and a tailored treatment plan for your leg ulcers.

leg health evaluation by a vein specialist

Vein Specialists of the South Macon


*Individual Results May Vary

Vein Specialists of the South Macon

Choose Expert Care for Leg Ulcers in Georgia

When faced with VLU leg ulcers or CVI venous disease, choosing the right healthcare provider is the first step to healing. At Vein Specialists of the South (VSS), we want to be your guide and we are committed to high-quality patient care, focusing on the right treatment for the right patient at the right time.

Our professional and personalized approach to care ensures you feel informed and at ease with your care. By focusing on educational content and clear communication, we empower patients to participate actively in their treatment and preventive care.

If you’re dealing with leg ulcers or venous disease, such as varicose veins or spider veins, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Schedule an evaluation today and take the first step toward healthier legs. You deserve the best care and we are here to provide just that.

At VSS, your leg health is our mission. We hope this educational look into leg ulcers has illuminated your path to recovery and prevention. Remember, healthy veins lead to healthier lives!

Book Your Evaluation Today!

Ready to address your leg ulcers? Contact us at Vein Specialists of the South in Georgia, and experience compassionate, cutting-edge vein care. Book your consultation today, and stride forward with confidence.

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