Venous ulcers, also known as venous stasis ulcers, are slow-healing, often painful wounds that usually occur on your legs. The condition affects about 1% of the U.S. population and accounts for more than 80% of patients’ wounds. While the probability of developing venous ulcers is higher if you have a family history of the condition, certain lifestyle and health factors can also increase your risk for developing them. Left untreated, venous ulcers can cause skin and bone infections and require long-term medical care.
Venous ulcers appear as open skin sores. They typically develop from the result of venous insufficiency, a condition in which your leg veins don’t return the blood back toward your heart properly. Normal veins have valves that keep blood flowing toward your heart. When you have venous insufficiency, damaged valves cause blood to back up and pool in your veins.
This backflow of blood puts increased pressure at the end of your leg. The fluid can leak out of the vein and into the surrounding tissue. This can weaken the skin and make it harder for a cut or scrape to heal. Venous ulcers are more common around your ankle or other bony areas.
It’s important to seek medical care for venous ulcers as soon as they develop to avoid the need for complicated long-term wound care. The team of vascular and endovascular surgeons of Total Vascular Care in Brooklyn, New York, provides expert professional treatment of venous ulcers. Enrico Ascher, MD, Natalie Marks, MD, and Anil Hingorani, MD have the vascular expertise to diagnose venous ulcers and ensure that your wounds heal with the best possible outcomes without recurrence. They also assess your risk for venous ulcers and recommend ways to reduce the possibility of these wounds recurring if you have one.
Find out if you’re among those who have a high risk of developing venous ulcers and what you can do to reduce the likelihood of getting them.
Age causes your veins to lose elasticity. The valves in your veins also become weak as you grow older. Both changes affect your vein’s ability to control blood flow and make you susceptible to venous ulcers.
Being female also increases your risk of venous ulcers. The condition occurs most often in women over age 50.
Previous leg injury
You can develop a venous ulcer if you’ve had a fracture of a long bone in your leg or another serious leg injury, such as muscle damage or a burn. Having leg surgery, such as a hip replacement or knee replacement, can also make you more likely to develop venous ulcers. These types of events can prevent you from moving around normally, which is necessary to maintain healthy circulation and prevent venous ulcers.
Conditions that physically change your veins can increase your risk of venous ulcers. Blood clots (thrombosis) that form in the deep veins of the leg can damage the valves in your veins that regulate blood flow. Phlebitis, an inflammation of the veins, can also block valves and weaken veins.
Having swollen and enlarged veins, called varicose veins, also puts you at a higher risk for venous ulcers because it increases the pressure on your veins, impairing function. Being obese is also a risk factor for a similar reason, because of the increased force it exerts on your veins.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help offset risk factors, like family history and age, that you can’t change. You can reduce your risk for venous ulcers if you follow these strategies:
- Don’t smoke or quit smoking if you do
- Manage diabetes by controlling blood sugar levels
- Control high blood pressure and high cholesterol with a healthy diet, exercise, and medications
- Lose weight if you’re overweight or obese
- Remain at your ideal weight
- Wear compression stockings to prevent blood from pooling in your legs
- Avoid standing or sitting for long periods
Find out more about your risk for venous ulcers and how you can avoid this condition. Schedule an appointment online or call our office for a consultation.