Leg Ulcers – A Guide
Leg ulcers are sores on your lower leg. They usually appear around your ankle and need medical care to heal. Compression hosiery is proven to aid the treatment for leg ulcers. You can read more about leg ulcers in our simple guide.
We cover the causes and suitable treatment of leg ulcers, together with tips on dealing with the symptoms – including why wearing compression hosiery is a great help in any leg ulcer treatment.
For Leg Ulcers, Daylong recommends:
What are Leg Ulcers?
As the veins in our legs deteriorate with age, it can lead to poor circulation and damage to our vein tissues. Another problem is that the skin on your feet and legs is prone to minor injuries and can become broken. Your skin can then become infected and sore, forming an ulcer. Even with treatment, leg ulcers are very slow to heal. They do not heal at all if you ignore them.
Symptoms of leg ulcers include:
- You get a sore that won’t heal. The sore is usually near your ankle – often on the inside of your leg – and your ankle and foot can swell up and feel puffy.
- Your skin itches around the ulcer and in the affected leg, particularly if you have varicose veins.
- You experience pain. Leg ulcers cause an aching sensation in the affected leg. This can be intensely painful where your skin is broken, particularly if it is scraped or injured.
- Your skin is discoloured around the sore. You might also notice that your skin thickens and hardens, forming a ‘lip’ around the sore.
Leg Ulcer Treatment
If you have a leg ulcer, it will need treatment and must be kept clean and infection-free. The main treatment for leg ulcers is a regular dressing, and compression stockings that you should wear all the time.
Most leg ulcer specialists recommend that treatment is helped by compression stockings with graduated compression. Here, compression is stronger at the bottom of your leg, forcing excess fluid back up and away from your ankle. Two compression stockings are sometimes recommended. You wear both during the day, and remove the top one at night.
Research has shown that with careful weekly dressing by a practice nurse or district nurse, and correctly fitted compression garments, 70% of leg ulcers will heal. However, the process often takes about three months.
Important: It is important that you see your doctor as soon as you notice that you have a sore on your leg that is not healing, and causing you discomfort. Seeing your GP about varicose veins, or deep vein thrombosis, can help you prevent a leg ulcer arising in the first place. Wearing correctly fitted support stockings is important in the prevention of leg ulcers as well as treatment.
What causes Leg Ulcers?
The causes of leg ulcers are many and various. Some of the most common include:
- Ageing: as we get older, the circulation in our legs becomes less efficient. There is a higher risk of your skin being damaged, causing an ulcer.
- Obesity: being overweight puts more pressure on your veins and increases the risk of leg ulcers, as well as associated conditions such as varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis.
- Other illnesses: having diabetes causes tiny blood vessels to break down, causing poor circulation. People with a history of varicose veins or deep vein thrombosis are also at high risk of developing leg ulcers.
- Smoking: if you are a regular smoker, it is more likely that blockages will occur in the small arteries in your legs. This causes an increase in pressure in the veins of your leg and is a major factor in the causes of leg ulcers.
Top tips to prevent Leg Ulcers
It is important to take good care of your legs by walking regularly and by rubbing a moisturiser into your skin. Massaging helps to boost circulation and the moisturiser prevents your skin drying out and cracking. You also need to consider your lifestyle, and should take care of any underlying health problems. It is always a good idea to:
- Lose weight if you are overweight.
- Stop smoking – see your pharmacist or doctor for advice and help on how to stop.
- Eat a healthy diet, especially reducing the amount of saturated fat you eat.
- Increase the amount of regular exercise you take.
- Wear compression hosiery to prevent blood and fluid from pooling around your ankles.