James M. Salander, MD, FACS
Vascular Surgery and Varicose Vein Treatment

5513 Connecticut Ave. Suite 210
Washington, DC 20015
Phone: 202-966-1228
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Leg Ulcers

Leg ulcers are open wounds of the leg that heal slowly and reopen or do not heal at all. They are not often caused by skin problems alone, but are frequently caused by underlying conditions. These conditions are often affected by circulation. Arteries bring blood into the leg and veins take it out. When circulation is compromised, this can reduce the body's ability to heal wounds.

Leg ulcers can cause pain, itching, and burning. They may also develop drainage and infection. They can become chronic due to many factors. The body goes through many steps to clean up and close an open wound. Good blood flow in the arteries and veins is critical for healing open wounds and keeping them healed. Blood flow problems from hardening of the arteries, varicose veins, leg swelling, diabetes, or kidney failure can all interfere with e process of healing

Leg ulcers can be prevented. The symptoms of leg ulcers can be eased. The role of the vascular surgeon is to assess circulation as it affects the healing of wounds. After assessment, steps can be taken to improve circulation and help the body heal the wound.

How can you prevent leg ulcers?

What are the symptoms of leg ulcers?

  • A wound that heals and opens again
  • A draining wound
  • A weeping wound
  • Pain and tenderness
  • Infection, cellulitis, discoloration, itching, dry and cracked skin

What are the causes of leg ulcers?

  • Varicose veins, old blood clots (phlebitis)
  • Leg swelling (lymphedema)
  • PAD (peripheral artery disease) (learn more in English | Spanish)
  • Arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • Diabetes (learn more in English | Spanish)
  • Minor cuts and bruises (trauma)
  • Stasis dermatitis
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Steroid use

What tests may be ordered?

  • Ultrasound
  • Plain x-rays
  • MRI
  • Arteriograms

What are the findings of leg ulcers?

  • Open wound, crusted wound, oozing wound
  • Pain, tenderness, edema, infection
  • Skin changes around the wound
  • Tenderness
  • Pus
  • Dead skin

What treatment options are available?

  • Local wound care
  • Skin lotions
  • Support stockings
  • Antibiotics
  • Measures to enhance the circulation as needed
  • Pain management as necessary