When it comes to lesions of the lower leg, many people take a wait-and-see-approach to seeking treatment. Yet, venous leg ulcers (VLUs) – which account for 70 to 90 percent of ulcers found on the lower legs – can quickly become painful and dangerous to your health.
This is why Anil Kumar, MD, MRCP, FACC, RPVI, RPhS, Medical Director of the Vein Center at Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC), and other Vascular Medicine specialists, are warning people to get medical help early for a non-healing sore on their leg.
“If you have a wound on your lower leg that has not healed in two weeks, you should seek medical help,” said Dr. Kumar.
In its early stages, a venous ulcer feels itchy or burns, and the leg around it may be swollen. Left untreated, VLUs can become infected. This leads to the formation of a membrane over the VLU. Below that membrane, the VLU continues to grow attacking the bones and even traveling to other parts of the body through the bloodstream.
How Common are VLUs?
Two percent of people 65 years of age and older in the United States are affected by VLUs, but it’s not a commonly discussed health problem.
“People with VLUs often become isolated,” said Dr. Kumar. “It definitely affects the quality of life, which is another reason vascular specialists are advising early treatment of VLUs.”
Do You Need a Venous Duplex Scan?
The underlying cause of a VLU can be chronic venous insufficiency, a medical condition that affects blood circulation in the lower extremities. Dr. Kumar recommends a venous duplex scan – an ultrasound of the legs and ankles – for people with a VLU combined with the following symptoms:
- Edema (swelling caused by excess fluid)
- Pigmentation around the ulcer
- Leg pain or heaviness
- Bulging varicose veins
- Leg cramps
- Restless legs
The Vein Center at YRMC develops individualized treatment plans for patients that include the latest, non-surgical therapies.
How Can You Prevent VLUs?
In addition to age, the most common cause of VLUs is being overweight. Excess weight leads to high pressure in the leg veins, which can damage skin and cause a VLU. A healthy diet, exercise and, if needed, weight loss can help prevent VLUs.
An Educational Approach to Vein Health
The Vein Center is equipped with current educational tools, including a series of online videos on vein health. For more information about VLUs, visit the Vein Center at YRMC or contact us at (928) 759-5890.