Venous Insufficiency & Venous Ulcers
The following describes the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of venous insufficiency and venous ulcers. For specific information regarding your health and treatment options, please contact your Hurley physician or medical professional.
What are venous insufficiency and venous ulcers?
Venous insufficiency is a chronic condition of abnormal blood flow due to dysfunction of small valves in the veins. When the valves do not work properly, blood leaks backward and pools causing inflammation in the affected veins. This condition most commonly affects the legs, but can also occur in the arms and internal organs. Left untreated, venous insufficiency can lead to venous ulcers, visible sores that typically form on or around the ankles.
What causes venous insufficiency and venous ulcers?
Blood clots, varicose veins, obesity, and pregnancy often cause venous insufficiency. It can also be the result of a sedentary lifestyle or recurring prolonged periods of standing (often associated with a job). The chances of having venous insufficiency increase with age and for those with a family history of vascular problems. It is also more common in women than men. Venous ulcers are a common result of chronic untreated venous insufficiency.
What are the symptoms of venous insufficiency and venous ulcers?
Common symptoms of venous insufficiency include:
- Chronic swelling of the ankles, feet, and calves
- Dull cramping and achiness in the legs, often worse after prolonged standing
- Skin discoloration on the legs and ankles
- Hardening or thickening of the skin on the legs and ankles
- Visible varicose veins (enlarged, painful veins beneath the surface of the skin)
- Venous ulcers
Common symptoms of venous ulcers include:
- Shallow, weeping sores on or around the ankles
- Swollen ankles
- Red, itchy skin around the sores
How are venous insufficiency and venous ulcers diagnosed?
Your Hurley physician’s patient-and family-centered approach to diagnosis will include a complete physical exam and possibly ultrasound diagnostic testing to determine if there is structural damage to the affected veins.
How are venous insufficiency and venous ulcers treated?
Treatment recommendations for venous insufficiency and venous ulcers typically include wearing compression stockings to help increase circulation in the legs, avoiding prolonged periods of sitting or standing, and elevating the affected area to reduce pooling of blood and decrease swelling. In addition, your physician may prescribe medications to thin the blood if you are at risk of developing blood clots. When treating venous ulcers, your Hurley physician will focus on healing the wound and preventing infection, often using wound dressings and topical antibiotics.
Surgery is very rarely needed to treat venous insufficiency. Surgical procedures sometimes used in the course of treatment include removal of varicose veins, ligation (tying off) of affected veins, and surgical repair of the affected veins and/or valves. Venous ulcers typically heal with non-surgical treatment, but very severe sores may require skin grafting to replace damaged tissue. Your Hurley physician can make a treatment recommendation based on your particular case.