Leg Ulcers: Why Do We Have Them?
Leg ulcers are open wounds or sores on the legs that refuse to heal. If they are not treated, they may continue recurring.
Leg ulcers is mostly caused by poor circulation of blood. However, several ailments may also contribute to its occurrence.
The prevalence of leg ulcers is higher in women, but they can affect both genders of any age. If treatment is done on time, the ulcers can improve while not causing further complications.
What causes leg ulcers?
The risk of developing leg ulcers increases as a person gets older, and they are usually hereditary. This means that if your dad or mum had leg ulcers, there are chances that you too will.
Other potential causes of leg ulcers include:
- Poor circulation of blood
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
- High pressure in the legs
- Kidney disease
Varicose veins are commonly associated with leg ulcers. Varicose veins refer to swollen & visible veins. In many cases, leg ulcers may occur as a complication of varicose veins that haven’t been treated. But then, both conditions do not always occur simultaneously.
How do I know that I have leg ulcers?
Symptoms of leg ulcers vary among individuals. The symptoms depend on the cause.
Truth be told, ulcers don’t feel good. They are painful. But in some cases, they don’t cause any pain. When an ulcer isn’t painful, it is because a nerve has been damaged (from untreated diabetes). A painless ulcer is a major reason for misdiagnosis and mismanagement of leg ulcers.
Consult your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Open sores
- Pain in the affected region
- Leg swelling
- Heaviness and pain in the legs
- Enlarged veins
Diagnosing leg ulcers
To diagnose ulcers of the leg, your doctor will conduct a physical examination on your leg along with some tests.
In some cases, a doctor can differentiate between a regular sore and a leg ulcer by visual examination. They will order several tests to determine the right plan of treatment. These include:
- MRI scan
- CT scan
- Non-invasive studies via ultrasound
Timely treatment helps to prevent infections, relieve pain, and stop the growth of wounds.
If there is some pus in the ulcer, then chances are that it has been infected. Infections can be handled with antibiotics. Treatment with antibiotics prevents further complications.
Compression bandages may be used to close the wound, ease swelling, and prevent infection. Ointments may also be prescribed to help treat the ulcer.
In extreme cases, braces or orthotics may be used to help you walk better. They also help to prevent future occurrences. Circulation is improved using pentoxifylline.
Your doctor may ask you to take aspirin to prevent the formation of clots in your legs. However, it is advisable that you take medications only by your doctor’s recommendation.
Home remedies for leg ulcers
Home remedies are used along with medical care to accelerate the healing process and also and also ease the discomfort.
First, all wounds must be kept clean. Keeping the wounds clean will prevent any infection. Wash your wounds with water and mild soap daily. Change the dressings and bandages at least once every day. Doing so will help keep the area dry, so it can heal.
You’ll be advised by your doctor about the specific routine to follow.
Other useful home remedies include:
- Putting on good walking shoes
- Keeping your legs at elevated positions while resting
- Exercising regularly. Exercises should be mild to moderate, and not intense.
It is important that you do not replace traditional medical treatment with alternative treatments or home remedies unless you receive your doctor’s consent. Home remedies may be beneficial no doubt, but in some cases, they may aggravate the condition based on the stage of the ulcer.
How can I prevent leg ulcers?
Because poor circulation is the primary cause of leg ulcers, then the best way to prevent leg ulcers would be to control those conditions that cause poor circulation. They include:
- High blood pressure
- Raynaud’s disease
Eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercises can help you to lose weight, thus decreasing your risk of ulcers. It is also important that you reduce your sodium intake. You can minimize your sodium intake by:
- Eating fresh foods mostly, while reducing your intake of packaged foods
- Studying the nutrition labels of food products and looking out for sodium.
A smoker is at high risk of ulcers. If you’ve been smoking, put a stop to it.
Tonika Bruce, MSN, RN, MBA. is an accomplished nurse leader, published author, and personal development expert passionate about advancing healthcare management and quality patient outcomes.
She taps into the years of experience in healthcare management to produce credible and easy-to-understand health and leadership content. Her exceptional work has been featured in reputable publications, including Forbes, Recruiter, Inc, and the Color of Wellness magazine.