An ulcer is a general term for a discontinuity or disruption of a bodily membrane that impedes normal function. Lower extremity ulcers, which are sores on the legs or lower body, can be caused by several conditions. These include varicose veins, peripheral arterial disease (PAD) complications, and nerve damage from diabetes. They can affect both veins (venal ulcers) or arteries (arterial ulcers.)
Today we’ll take a closer look at the symptoms of lower extremity ulcers and potential treatment options for those affected.
Lower extremity ulcer symptoms are straightforward: wounds on the legs that last two or more weeks despite treatment. These sores typically appear between the ankle and knee. These ulcers often seep fluid or pus and can grow larger if left untreated. Moreover, if it persists for three months or longer, it’s considered a chronic condition.
If you’re suffering from lower extremity ulcers, there are, thankfully, a range of treatment options available. Here are some your doctor or vascular specialist may recommend.
Compression therapy will most likely be the first treatment your doctor or vascular specialist recommends for leg ulcers. Special stockings or bandages will help blood flow get stimulated in the legs. This helps treat the backup of blood likely contributing to leg ulcers forming and not healing.
Elevating your legs will help slow the spread of leg ulcers. Like compression therapy, elevating your legs above your heart uses gravity to keep blood from pooling in the legs. Combined with compression therapy and other treatments, elevating your legs is incredibly effective.
These kinds of treatments directly address the leg ulcers themselves. These start with debridement, or the removing dead skin tissue, typically performed in the provider’s office. They will then apply topical antiseptics to prevent infection. Combined with regular bandage changes, this will prevent the wounds from getting infected. This won’t reduce leg ulcers from growing or spreading but can provide much-needed relief.
Your medical provider may also recommend an antibiotic regimen, particularly if the leg ulcers have grown infected.
Varicose veins are among the most common causes of venal lower extremity ulcers. Treating varicose veins can cause lower extremity ulcers to lessen or clear up entirely. One procedure to treat these veins is sclerotherapy, which injects the veins with a particular solution. This causes the veins to decrease in size, reducing the strain on the vascular system.
Endovascular ablation or endovenous ablation is another procedure that can treat varicose veins. This is typically done under local anesthetic or with sedative medication. The vein is found with ultrasound; then, a tiny incision is made below the knee or near the ankle. A thin catheter is inserted into the incision and guided into the vein, which supports a tool entering the vein.
The vein is sealed using either lasers or radiofrequency, and numbing fluid is injected into the area. After this, the incision is so thin that typically stitches aren’t required (although a bandage is). Both of these procedures are minimally invasive and have limited recovery times. They can often be performed as outpatient procedures or in the doctor’s offices.
While most cases respond to conservative treatments or sclerotherapy, extreme cases may require surgical intervention. Your provider may recommend surgery to address the underlying problems causing your leg ulcers. These can include surgical treatment for peripheral arterial disease (like an angioplasty or stent) or vascular surgery to treat varicose veins.
Like any surgical procedure, there is an amount of risk involved, as well as recovery times in the weeks.
Leg ulcers can be a painful and persistent problem, but with treatment, they can resolve sooner and with less pain. South Valley Vascular is here to help with any vascular conditions you may struggle with. These include complications from lower extremity ulcers and similar conditions.
Call or schedule an appointment today with one of South Valley’s friendly and professional vascular specialists.