What is a Leg Ulcer?
Leg Ulcers are most commonly found on the inside of the leg, above the ankle. They occur when there are breaks in the skin that allow air and bacteria to penetrate into underlying tissue. This usually produces inflammation and a sore that is itchy and often surrounded by discolored or hardened skin. Although leg ulcers affect your skin directly, 80% are caused by inefficiency of the veins within your legs and arterial issues cause another 15%. In some patients, ulcers can also occur after a minor injury that increases the pressure in the veins. Leg ulcers can affect anyone, although older individuals, those who have had recent surgery, or have mobility issues tend to be at higher risk.
Leg ulcers are not only uncomfortable and cosmetically displeasing, but they can also be challenging to treat effectively. Not all sores require medical attention, but a leg ulcer that has not healed on its own after four to six weeks should be evaluated by a medical professional to determine the underlying causes of the venous or arterial leg ulcers.
How are Leg Ulcers Treated?
Leg ulcer treatments range from conservative to minimally invasive:
- Conservative treatment includes wearing compression stockings, diet changes and other lifestyle changes that can slow the advance of vascular disease
- If the ulcer is caused by vein insufficiencies of the saphenous veins, Endovenous Ablation Therapy is a possible solution. This utilizes either laser or radiofrequency energy or other methods to prevent the affected veins from leaking.
- If leg ulcers are due to narrowing in the pelvic veins [iliac or femoral veins], opening with stents is an available option.
- If the source is arterial disease, a majority of the time, repair of the blockages with stents is effective or else surg ery and arterial bypass may be needed.