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I Have an Oozing Leg Ulcer: Should I See a Doctor?

Caring for cuts and wounds at home is natural. Giving your body time to heal rather than visiting your primary care provider for a minor problem makes sense.

But if you have a leg ulcer (oozing or not), taking a wait-and-see approach is the worst thing you can do.

Leg ulcers are unique wounds caused by an underlying blood vessel condition. And they won’t heal without medical care. Instead, they keep enlarging.

The longer you wait for an ulcer to heal, the more the wound expands, and your chances of developing a severe infection increase. 

Infections lead to tissue death, which is why non-healing leg ulcers ultimately account for more than half of all surgical amputations.

At Memphis Vein Center, Kishore K. Arcot, MD, FACC, takes a multifaceted approach essential for healing your oozing leg ulcer. He provides exceptional wound care, treats the vascular condition responsible for the ulcer, and teaches preventive care.

Leg ulcer causes

The following blood vessel conditions could cause ulcers in your lower leg and foot:

Chronic venous insufficiency

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) develops when valves inside your leg veins weaken. Healthy valves open to let blood go up your leg and close to prevent blood from flowing back down (refluxing). 

When the valves weaken (venous insufficiency), some blood refluxes and builds up in the vein.

As blood keeps accumulating, you develop varicose veins. CVI also raises the venous pressure in your lower leg, pushing fluids into the surrounding tissues.

The fluids break down your skin, resulting in an open sore (venous ulcer). The ongoing pressure doesn’t give the ulcer time to heal. Instead, the ulcer keeps getting larger.

Peripheral artery disease

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) begins when cholesterol attaches to the wall of an artery in your lower leg. As the fatty plaque enlarges, it increasingly blocks blood flow.

Tissues deprived of oxygen-rich blood die, and an arterial ulcer develops. Arterial ulcers can’t heal because they don’t get enough oxygen.

Diabetic vascular disease

Uncontrolled diabetes causes high blood sugar. High blood sugar damages blood vessels, usually beginning in your feet and lower legs. 

Minor cuts, abrasions, or pressure points on your feet can’t heal because the blood supply is compromised. Then the small wounds quickly turn into non-healing ulcers.

Identifying non-healing leg ulcers

Vascular ulcers typically appear on your lower leg (often around the ankle) or foot. You only need to identify an open, non-healing wound to know you should schedule an appointment with our vascular experts.

But arterial and venous ulcers look different, which can be confusing and make you wonder if the wound on your leg is really an ulcer.

Arterial ulcers are usually painful and form a deep wound. By comparison, venous ulcers are painless (unless infected), shallow, and enlarge around the edge of the wound.

If your leg ulcer oozes, it’s probably a venous ulcer because arterial ulcers seldom ooze or bleed.

Arterial ulcers are round with well-defined edges and tend to appear black, red, or yellow. Venous ulcers have an irregular border and generally appear red.

Don’t wait to seek care for a leg ulcer

We can’t overemphasize the importance of seeking immediate medical attention for a leg ulcer. The ulcer won’t heal until we restore healthy circulation, which we accomplish with safe, minimally invasive treatments to clear clogged arteries and eliminate dysfunctional valves.

Ulcers also need intensive wound care using highly specialized dressings and treatments that create a healing environment. Leg and foot ulcers can take months to heal, even with optimal wound care.

As long as you have an open sore, you’re at risk for skin and bone infections and tissue death (gangrene), which leads to surgery to preserve the limb or for amputation.

Call our Memphis, Tennessee, center today or use our online system to request an evaluation for a non-healing leg or foot ulcer.

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