What are venous stasis ulcers?
Venous leg ulcers are wounds or sores on the lower leg that heal poorly due to insufficient blood circulation.
Venous ulcers occur when there’s a break in the skin on the leg, often occurring near the medial malleolus (inside ankle bone). This normally affects elderly people with several underlying diseases. The onset of venous leg ulcers is also common in people who have diabetes or a weak heart. Women suffer from venous leg ulcers more often than men. The main cause is usually venous insufficiency that has developed over several years.
How a venous leg ulcer develops
Due to the chronically dysfunctional veins (in medical terminology, chronic venous insufficiency, the veins are no longer in the position to transport blood quickly from the legs to the heart. The valves that stop the flow of blood back into the veins decrease in efficiency. The blood pools and widens the veins. This so-called stasis ultimately damages the smallest blood vessels (capillaries). These supply the cells with oxygen and nutrients and transport metabolic breakdown products away from the tissues. The damaged capillaries can no longer fulfill their function satisfactorily. This backflow of blood means increased pressure at the end of the limb. The skin in the affected areas becomes sensitive, loses its elasticity, and grows hard. When that happens, the weakened skin makes it harder for a cut or scrape to heal. Eventually, the skin dies off and even the slightest, barely noticed injury can turn into an open, weeping wound.
The open wound is very painful and can feel itchy or will burn. A rash can occur, and the skin becomes dry, with brownish discoloration. Microorganisms that colonize the wound and its surroundings can cause unpleasant odors. In many cases, those affected are afraid to go out and avoid contact with other people. The patients often take on a protective posture due to the pain. They may barely move the affected leg at all. This lack of mobility, in turn, switches off the pump mechanism that transports the blood back in the direction of the heart and starts a vicious cycle.
Some people suffer from venous leg ulcers for many years, but the healing prospects are also good – around 90% percent of all venous leg ulcers can be healed using some of the treatment procedures available today.