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Venous Insufficiency and Wounds That Won't Heal

Cuts, rashes, and wounds on the leg tend to take longer to heal than on other parts of the body. However, sometimes they can take noticeably longer than usual. While this is common for diabetics, it can leave others scratching their heads wondering what’s going on. What you may be experiencing is venous insufficiency, which causes wounds that won’t heal.

Leg wounds take longer to heal since blood flows more slowly through the legs and feet. Wounds that take an unusually long time to heal can develop into venous skin ulcers which have different root causes than diabetic skin ulcers. While you can treat venous leg ulcers to alleviate symptoms, your best course of action is to seek medical treatment  from a vein specialist to treat the problem at its source.venous ulcer - Photo courtesy of Jonathan Moore from Wikipedia.org

To better understand venous insufficiency and wounds that won’t heal, we’ll look at:

  • Why leg wounds take longer to heal
  • Venous skin ulcers
  • Treating venous leg ulcers 

Varicose veins can present themselves in multiple ways. However, venous skin ulcers stemming from venous insufficiency indicates that your varicose veins have progressed much further. When it comes to varicose veins, the best course of action is to seek medical treatment immediately to ensure they never reach this point.

Why Leg Wounds Take Longer to Heal

Cuts and other wounds on the legs and feet take longer to heal than the rest of the body. Humans are bipeds, meaning that we use two legs to walk rather than being on all fours (quadrupedal). While being able to stand upright has its benefits, it puts a lot of pressure on our legs and feet that our four-legged friends don’t experience as much.

Pressure resulting from standing on your own two feet can result in some common problems. This is especially true if you work a job that requires you to be on your feet most of the day or from carrying more weight than normal. Both of these examples can lead to poor blood circulation in your legs, which is the cause of many leg problems. 

Other symptoms of poor leg circulation include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
  • Discoloration
  • Rashes
  • Sores

These may be signs of a more serious issue if you experience these symptoms for a prolonged period of time. You’ll want to consult your physician immediately if they become progressively worse over time, especially if you’re also experiencing leg wounds that take longer to heal than normal.

Venous Skin Ulcers

If you have a cut or wound that is healing slowly or not at all, then you may actually have an ulcer. Ulcers can have different causes and your physician is best qualified to diagnose and treat them. However, it can help to have a better understanding of what they are and what causes them to get a jump-start on treatment and recovery.

What are skin ulcers?

Skin ulcers are open wounds resulting from poor blood flow. Good blood flow is essential to heal your skin, but poor circulation can cause minor injuries to heal slowly or even become worse. As the wound worsens, it can eventually turn into an ulcer. What’s worse is that ulcers get infected more easily and can result in an infection that spreads throughout your body.

Ulcers are most commonly found on the leg and it’s estimated that around 3 in 1,000 people currently have one. However, they can also occur on your feet, hips, and back. They’re more prevalent in the older population which can be especially dangerous if they develop an infected skin ulcer.

The Difference Between Diabetic Ulcers and Venous Skin Ulcers

One of the most common causes of skin ulcers is diabetes which greatly increases your chances of developing them. These are known as diabetic ulcers. While diabetic ulcers can be caused for different reasons, the most common reason is damage to your nerves and blood vessels due to high blood sugar (high blood glucose).

Damage to your nerves and blood vessels can eventually affect your body’s ability to pump blood, especially to your limbs, resulting in difficulty for the skin to heal itself. This also increases your chances of getting an infection as well as developing peripheral arterial disease (PAD). This condition decreases the flow of blood to your feet and legs.

But what if you don’t have diabetes?

If you’re experiencing skin ulcers but aren’t diabetic, then you may have a venous skin ulcer. These ulcers are the result of chronic venous insufficiency and may be combined with symptoms such as pain, swelling, and discoloration of the skin. This may be a sign of varicose veins which is a progressive and chronic condition requiring treatment from a phlebologist.   

Venous leg ulcers are a common symptom of varicose veins. This condition occurs when the one-way valves inside leg veins malfunction, resulting in poor blood circulation and even backward blood flow. This causes pressure to increase within the vein, resulting in swelling, discoloration and, unlike diabetic ulcers with damaged nerves, increased pain.

Treating Venous Leg Ulcers

Venous leg ulcers are often a sign of advanced venous insufficiency. Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate your symptoms until you can seek professional treatment. Your main focus will be to increase blood flow in your affected leg.

Ways to alleviate venous leg ulcer symptoms include:

  • Elevating your legs above your heart for 15 - 20 minutes
  • Walking or engaging in other exercises that flex your calves
  • Wearing compression stockings
  • Avoiding sitting or standing for long periods of time by regularly getting up or sitting
  • Losing weight to help remove pressure from your legs

While these tips may help alleviate your symptoms, they’re no replacement for professional treatment. That’s because they don’t address the underlying cause of venous insufficiency and varicose veins. Varicose veins are a chronic, progressive condition that only worsens over time. The best way to prevent complications like venous skin ulcers is to ensure they never happen.

Contact us at East Tennessee Vein Clinic to get help for your varicose veins. We treat varicose veins differently by eliminating the entire network of failed veins, not just large visibly bulging veins. You can contact us online, or call us at 865.686.0507 or toll-free at 866.281.VEIN.

Love Dr. Douglass and entire staff. My favorite part is that K-Love 88.3 is always playing. I have referred several friends!

- S. W., Knoxville, TN

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