Now accepting Telehealth appointments. Schedule a virtual visit.

Understanding the Different Causes of Leg Ulcers

Understanding the Different Causes of Leg Ulcers

Leg ulcers pose a serious threat to your health. These wounds don’t heal on their own. Even with treatment, they can last for nine months or longer. And they get progressively worse, putting you at risk for skin and bone infections.

Vascular disease is the cause of leg ulcers, but they can also arise from uncontrolled diabetes. 

At Memphis Vein Center, board-certified cardiologist Kishore Arcot, MD, provides exceptional treatments for vascular problems, but he can also help you prevent dangerous leg ulcers by screening for early signs of vascular disease and creating a preventive care plan.

Here’s everything you need to know about the causes and symptoms of leg ulcers. Once you know the early warning signs, you can seek treatment before an ulcer develops.

How venous ulcers develop

Leg ulcers caused by a vein problem (called venous stasis ulcers), begin when valves inside your leg veins weaken and stop working. These valves normally keep blood flowing in one direction: up your legs and toward your heart.

When the valves weaken, some blood flows back down your leg, causing a condition called venous insufficiency. As the refluxing blood accumulates, the vein enlarges and the blood pressure in your lower leg rises.

High venous pressure forces fluids out of the veins. Then the fluids break down the skin and surrounding tissues, causing an ulcer. Venous ulcers usually appear around your ankle, but they can affect any part of your lower leg.

Signs of vein disease

Venous insufficiency causes other conditions and symptoms before you develop an ulcer:

Varicose veins

Varicose veins appear as the accumulating blood causes large, twisted, bulging, dark-blue, veins. Unsightly leg veins are often the first sign you have venous insufficiency.

Leg symptoms

You may experience pain, swelling, or itching in the affected leg. Sometimes your leg may feel heavy or you could have muscle cramps or restless legs.

Skin symptoms

If one or more of the following skin conditions appear in your lower leg, consider them red flags that you have advanced venous insufficiency:

These symptoms suggest it won’t be long before an ulcer develops, but you can still prevent an ulcer by getting treatment.

How arterial ulcers develop

Arterial ulcers are a complication of advanced peripheral artery disease (PAD). PAD occurs when cholesterol accumulates in the artery wall. This condition, called atherosclerosis, gets worse over time. As the fatty plaque enlarges, it interferes with blood flow.

Without treatment, the plaque gets large enough to significantly block circulation through the artery. Without enough blood, skin and other tissues don’t get oxygen and they start to break down. That’s when an arterial leg ulcer develops.

Signs of artery disease

PAD causes leg symptoms such as:

Leg pain that sticks around even when you’re resting is a sign that you have advanced PAD.

How diabetes causes ulcers

Diabetes typically causes ulcers on your foot. But diabetes also increases your risk of developing atherosclerosis, so you may end up with a leg ulcer, too.

High blood sugar damages small blood vessels and nerves. Nerve damage causes numbness, so you don’t notice small cuts, scrapes, and pressure sores on your foot. Then diminished blood flow hinders healing, turning a minor cut into a nonhealing ulcer.

The best way to prevent a diabetic ulcer is to check your feet every day, looking for signs of a cut or abrasion. If you notice a problem, get medical care right away to ensure the wound heals.

If you have questions about leg ulcers or symptoms you may have, contact us today at our Memphis, Tennessee, office.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Do I Have May-Thurner Syndrome?

What is May-Thurner syndrome and how do you know if you’re at risk for this vascular condition? The only way to know for sure is with vascular imaging that reveals problems in your veins.

When Your Chest Pain Needs Medical Attention

You should never ignore chest pain, but it’s important to know when your chest pain is a red flag signaling a serious problem that needs immediate medical attention. Read on to learn the top signs that your symptoms arise from a heart condition.

The Importance of Treating Deep Vein Thrombosis

Sometimes deep vein thrombosis causes sudden, severe pain that you can’t ignore. Other times, you may have mild symptoms that feel more like a muscle ache. No matter what symptoms you have, it’s essential to seek life-saving treatment. Here’s why.

5 Signs You May Have Deep Vein Thrombosis

Recognizing the signs of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can save your life. That may sound extreme, but it’s true. A blood clot in your legs can break free and turn into a life-threatening clot in your lungs. Read on to learn the five signs of DVT.