Arterial vs. Venous Ulcers: What Is the Difference?

Blog Post
By South Valley Vascular
March 29, 2022

It is essential for blood to flow throughout the body. This is because the organs, including the liver, brain, and lungs, need oxygenated blood to sustain the body. That is why people must keep their arteries healthy. Arteries are blood vessels that transport blood throughout the body from the heart. These include the carotids, the aorta, and many other vital arteries.

Like the arteries, the veins are blood vessels that connect to the heart. These include the pulmonary veins and the cardiac veins. However, unlike arteries, veins are a bluish color when filled with blood. This is because veins transport blood that has already released oxygen. Before the veins carry deoxygenated blood to the heart, it travels to the lungs for reoxygenation. This oxygenated blood, once again, travels throughout the rest of the body. 

Complications can occur that impact healthy blood circulation. Some abnormalities include plaque buildup inside the walls of blood vessels. People should look out for signs of complications, including venous or arterial ulcers. Moreover, it is essential to understand the critical differences between the two abnormalities. Doing so allows patients to seek proper treatment if they suffer from either condition.

Arterial vs. Venous Ulcers: What’s the Difference?

An arterial ulcer forms as a result of developing peripheral artery disease (PAD). Peripheral artery disease occurs due to decreased blood flow throughout the body. When this occurs, the restricted blood flow produces arterial ulcers. These ulcers can typically be found on the lower extremities of the body, including the toes and heels. In more severe cases, arterial ulcers can develop into gangrene, destroying body tissue. The appearance of these ulcers is circular and reddish on the skin. 

On the other hand, a venous ulcer does not have a definite shape and is usually located on the leg. Venous ulcers can occur as a result of varicose veins occurring inside the body. Varicose veins form when blood backflows and pools in veins—rather than flowing back to the heart. Venous ulcers can be painful, itchy, or uncomfortable. Other symptoms of this condition include leaking pus and a pungent odor excreting.


One of the best ways to protect the body from arterial ulcers is staying active. Physical activity lowers the possibility of arterial ulcers occurring in the body. This is because movement encourages healthy blood flow throughout the arteries. When blood can circulate more efficiently, oxygen can reach the organs—thereby allowing them to sustain the body. Also, if patients refrain from smoking and stay warm in cold weather, they can protect their arterial health. 

To prevent venous ulcers from forming in the legs, patients should maintain a healthy body weight. Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time. Moreover, wearing compression stockings also helps prevent the development of varicose veins in the legs. Another preventative measure involves elevating the legs regularly. This encourages blood to flow from the legs up to the heart.


Consult a physician to discuss treatment for arterial or venous ulcers. In serious cases, arterial ulcers may require treatment through angioplasty. This is an operation aimed at improving blood circulation to the heart. In the event that the tissue of the affected area is severely damaged, amputation may be necessary. However, this is rare and only required when other treatments fail. In less severe cases, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics to remedy the affected areas.

A common treatment for venous ulcers includes endovenous laser varicose vein surgery. This surgery can encourage healthy blood flow from the extremities back to the lungs and heart.

At South Valley Vascular, we take pride in providing high-grade care for patients suffering from arterial or venous ulcers. Prospective patients can learn more about our treatment options on our website. We look forward to serving your health needs today.