Do you have sores that don’t ever seem to heal? Do you have any red, swollen protrusions on your legs that excrete fluid?
If so, these open wounds may be venous leg ulcers.
Venous Leg Ulcers
Venous leg ulcers are typically caused by an underlying health concern and need to be evaluated by a medical professional. While most vein disorders are easy to treat, open wound and venous ulcers are more severe. When left untreated or misdiagnosed, venous leg ulcers increase your risk of infection due to bacteria exposure through the open wound.
In this article, we will discuss what causes open wounds, additional symptoms associated with open wounds and what you can do to lower your risk of infection.
What Causes Open Wounds on Legs?
Most open wounds on legs are caused by a venous disorder. When the lower leg is subjected to increased, internal pressure, open wounds will begin to appear.
The veins in our lower extremities have one-way valves that keep the blood flowing up toward the heart, preventing it from flowing backward. When the blood does not flow back to the heart, the blood begins to pool in the veins.
When these valves or veins weaken, they have trouble circulating the blood, which begins to create pressure in the leg veins (venous hypertension). As a result, blood begins to leak out, causing damage to the surrounding tissue and skin.
Untreated Venous Hypertension
When left untreated, built up fluid prevents the supply of oxygen to surrounding tissues. Eventually, the lack of oxygen and nutrition causes the cells to die, leading to wound formation.
Varicose veins may also lead to leg ulcers.
Varicose veins are enlarged, knotty veins found on the legs. When left untreated, they can lead to open wounds.
Why You Should Not Ignore Open Wounds On Legs
Untreated, open wounds can develop into a severe ulcer. If proper treatment is not sought out, the likelihood of developing a serious infection is very high. Delaying treatment will also prolong complete healing of the wound.
Without the accurate diagnosis of a vascular surgeon, you run the risk of developing serious complications.
Symptoms of Open Wounds
Below are common symptoms that accompany open leg wounds:
- Pus and pain in the affected area
- Open sores that seem to grow larger
- Swelling around the affected area
- Enlarged or varicose veins
- Heaviness in the legs
The majority of people experience pain; however, some may experience no pain. Lack of pain may be a sign of nerve damage, which is possible in mismanaged diabetes.
What Does A Leg Ulcer Look Like?
Venous leg wounds appear as shallow ulcers with uneven edges, filled with a liquid that drains out or leaks frequently.
You may also notice:
- Swelling and red, itchy skin around the open wound
- Tightness around the affected area
- Heaviness in your legs
- Aching or throbbing pain
- Skin discoloration
Where are Leg Ulcers Located?
Venous leg ulcers are typically found anywhere between your knee and ankle. Often, the ulcer will be on the inner side of the leg or around the ankle.
In some cases, the open wounds are superficial and only affect the skin on your leg. In more severe cases, the ulcer can extend deep into the fat layer, muscle tissue, tendon, and even bone.
There are several risk factors associated with open wounds or venous leg ulcers:
- Pre-existing varicose veins
- A history of deep-vein thrombosis or blood clots in the legs
- Family history of leg ulcers and venous insufficiency
- Sitting or standing for long periods
- Injuries or muscle damage
What Can You Do About Open Wounds on Legs?
To rule out any serious underlying conditions, you will need to seek medical attention for a proper diagnosis.
A thorough physical examination will be needed, in addition to some tests, to pinpoint the cause of your leg ulcers. Based on their findings, a doctor will create the appropriate treatment plan needed to treat the open wounds.
Depending on the severity of your open wounds, your doctor may suggest at-home remedies to help alleviate pain and promote healing:
- Regular exercise to encourage good circulation
- Elevating your legs while resting
- Wearing loose clothing that allows the sores to heal
- Cleaning the Open Wound
Since the wound is exposed to open air and bacteria, it is highly susceptible to infection. Therefore it is crucial to keep the open wound clean.
- Use a mild soap and water to clean the wound
- Change the dressing daily
- Keep the affected area dry to promote healing
In most cases, open wounds on legs are treatable, provided you are proactive and seek timely treatment.
If neglected, the ulcer can advance, and infection can reach the bone. To avoid this, it is essential that you see a board-certified vascular surgeon.