Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Preventing leg ulcers

It's not easy to live with leg ulcers. Open wounds can be painful, difficult to heal, and the likelihood of recurrence is significant. But prevention is possible.

One warning sign that you may be developing a venous ulcer is noticeable skin changes in the lower legs, such as dryness or thickening. Another sign of ulceration may be discoloration of the legs, typically dark red, purplish, or a brown, woody appearance. Other possible indications are aches or pains in the legs, especially when standing or sitting for prolonged periods.

Varicose veins are another possible warning sign. Varicose veins, as with any form of venous disease, are often hereditary. If you have varicose veins—or a family history of varicose veins— consider getting evaluated and treated for them before they lead to ulceration.

Risk factors for venous ulcers include older age, a history of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), venous insufficiency, and previous ulcers or leg injury. Though you can’t change your genetics, you can modify other things. If you have a job where you’re on your feet all day, wear graduated compression stockings.

There is often a misconception among patients and physicians alike that there is nothing you can do for venous ulcers. The fact is wound care specialists use a variety of modalities to heal patients’ wounds, including aggressive compression therapy, skin grafting and “low-tech” therapies like elevation.

It is important to remember that although wound care specialists can treat and even heal wounds, unless the underlying cause is addressed, it will only reoccur. If the wound is identified as a venous ulcer, then treating the incompetent vein valves that contribute to venous ulcers is key for lasting results.

Experts agree that the earlier the intervention and treatment, the better chance a wound has to heal and stay closed. And, of course, patients with venous ulcers are best managed by a multi-disciplinary team of primary care physicians, wound care centers, and professionals who specialize in venous care.

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