Approximately 500,000 people across the UK suffer with painful and uncomfortable recurring ulcers. But despite the fact that it is such a common concern, there is often much confusion over what the condition actually is and how the condition can be treated.
Leg Ulcers are open, non-healing wounds of the legs, usually the lower legs or the feet. They occur when the skin has broken down to reveal open sores which are unable to naturally heal, and can often become infected if not treated correctly.
They can be big or small, painful or not painful, smelly or not smelly, wet or dry. There many different appearances of ulcers which can make the condition even more difficult to spot or understand.
The cause of a leg ulcer is usually due to an injury that breaks the skin. In most people, an injury will heal up without difficulty, however when there is an underlying problem the skin does not heal properly and the area of breakdown can become an ulcer.
The most common problem leading to the development of ulcers is when there is a problem with the circulation of blood in your leg veins. We often refer to these as hidden varicose veins or venous reflux. This increases the pressure inside the veins which gradually damages the tiny blood vessels in your skin, making it fragile and more susceptible to developing a ‘venous leg ulcer.
Poor circulation is a less common problem but it can be the cause of blood in the arteries, which may result in an ‘arterial leg ulcer’. Arterial ulcers are less common than venous ulcers, however they are the most important to diagnose. This is because arterial ulcers are a sign that the leg doesn’t have enough blood supply to keep it alive. If not restored it can lead to gangrene.
Surgeons at The Whiteley Clinic, always check for other causes as well as arterial causes before treating Venous Leg Ulcers. This is essential as many of these problems occur in older people and they may have more than one cause for their leg ulcers.
In the vast majority of cases leg ulcers are completely curable with the right treatment. The basic principle of curing a leg ulcer is very simple; find out the underlying cause of the leg ulcer and correct it.
For various reasons many health professionals will not make their patients aware of this. Instead will offer less effective temporary solutions – such as dressings and bandages. Although these temporary solutions can improve the ulcer surface and even temporarily heal the skin, the ulcer will usually break open again as the underlying cause is not addressed.
For anyone suffering with a ‘venous leg ulcer’, it is important to visit a vascular specialist. Vascular specialists will use a duplex ultrasound scan to identify which veins have lost their valves and are allowing venous reflux to occur, and can close these problematic veins under local anaesthetic using combination of treatments, including;
Once the underlying problem has been addressed, the ulcer healing usually follows within 3 to 6 months. This is providing that the patient is walking well and the ulcer isn’t perpetuated by constant dressing. To book a consultation or to find out more about Leg Ulcers please call 0330 058 1850 or email [email protected]