Normally, when you get a scrape or cut in your skin, your body’s natural healing system quickly starts working to close the wound. The repair process takes place over several stages. A clot forms to stop blood loss. Red and white blood cells flood the area to help clean and restore the damaged tissues. Collagen, which acts as a type of scaffolding, builds and strengthens the area, sometimes resulting in a scar. Over time, the new tissue grows stronger, and within several months, the wounded area is nearly as strong as it was before the trauma.
But the healing process does not always go smoothly. A venous ulcer is a type of open skin sore that’s very slow to heal. In fact, a venous ulcer may not heal at all without proper treatment. Chronic venous ulcers have a significant impact on quality of life. The sooner you receive treatment for an ulcer, the lower the risk of infection and other complications.
Dr. James Jimenez of The Vein Center of Florida & South Baldwin is known for superior care in the diagnosis, management and treatment of the underlying cause of venous ulcers. Dr. J specializes in minimally-invasive, office-based vein treatments and is proud to be the Emerald Coast’s leading vein expert. Please contact us today at 1-800-910-VEIN (8346) to request a consultation with Dr. J.
How Do Venous Ulcers Form?
Venous ulcers account for the majority of chronic lower extremity ulcers. The problem begins with poor blood circulation in the legs, often due to damaged valves inside the leg veins. When they’re healthy, these valves help control blood pressure inside the veins. If they weaken due to injury or aging, they allow blood to pool inside the veins and cause an excessive build-up of pressure. The growing pressure causes the vein to expand and prevents essential nutrients and oxygen from getting to tissues.
Eventually, the vein may protrude from the skin and form a varicose vein, and the skin may become fragile. This is the start of venous ulcer development. In the first stage, the skin becomes red and inflamed. The skin may begin leaking a small amount of fluid. As the condition progresses, the affected area of skin starts to die and a non-healing wound develops. In the final stage, the open wound is clearly visible and unlikely to disappear without medical intervention.
Approximately 1 percent of Americans have venous ulcers. They are more common in older people and women. Other risk factors for venous ulcers include the following:
- Poor nutrition
- Physical inactivity
- Prior leg injuries
- Varicose veins
- Other circulation problems
Even with a healthy lifestyle, it’s possible to develop vein disease and venous ulcers. This is partially due to a strong genetic influence. Individuals who have a close relative with vein disease are more likely to develop venous issues. If this describes your circumstances, you may wish to be monitored closely by a vein specialist to minimize your risk of future complications.
Health Issues Related to Venous Ulcers
Venous ulcer symptoms include:
- Swollen and achy legs
- Tired or heavy legs
- Patches of dark red or purple skin
- Areas of skin that are thick, dry, itchy or hardened
- Restlessness, especially at night
- A shallow, red sore with irregular edges
- Clear, yellow or bloody drainage from the sore
- Random bleeding
- Unpleasant smell
If you notice any of these symptoms, the best thing to do is to see a Florida vein specialist as soon as you can. Accurate diagnosis is the first step of good ulcer care.
Severe complications of chronic venous ulcers include infection and malignant change, such as the skin cancer squamous cell carcinoma. Venous ulcers can also have a major economic and personal impact. They are linked with loss of productivity, missed workdays, discomfort, increased disability, frequent visits to health care facilities, need for dressing changes, recurrent hospitalizations and high medical costs.
Can I Treat Venous Ulcers at Home?
Venous ulcers require proper care to prevent infection and heal. Visit an experienced vein specialist like Dr. J who can help develop a personalized treatment plan and provide advice to advance your vein health. Treatment options for venous ulcers include conservative management, medications, mechanical modalities, advanced wound therapy and surgical intervention. The main goal of treatment is healing the ulcer and treating its underlying cause. Secondary goals include the reduction of swelling and prevention of recurrence.
Below are some steps you may be advised to take to care for your ulcer at home:
- Apply a dressing to the ulcer
- Clean the wound regularly
- Apply topical medicine to prevent or treat an infection
- Take oral antibiotic medication to prevent or treat an infection
- Avoid products and treatments that cause skin sensitivity
- Protect the skin around the wound by keeping it clean, dry and moisturized
In addition to the guidelines above, you may be given instructions to alleviate pressure in your leg veins and promote healthy circulation:
- Wear compression stockings or bandages to prevent blood from pooling, reduce swelling and pain, and speed healing
- Raise your leg for set lengths of times each day
- Take a walk or exercise daily to improve blood flow
- Aim for weight reduction if you are overweight
If your ulcer does not improve within several weeks of conservative wound care, then you will likely need to consider adjunctive treatment options. There are two components to venous ulcer treatment. The first is addressing the wound. The second is addressing the cause. Treatment of underlying venous insufficiency will usually facilitate healing and decrease the incidence of recurrence.
Venous Ulcer Treatments Offered at The Vein Center of Florida & South Baldwin
At The Vein Center of Florida & South Baldwin, we offer several options for treating venous insufficiency. Our state-of-the-art, minimally-invasive treatments resolve problem veins quickly, easily and with minimal downtime. Dr. Jimenez will recommend appropriate treatment options after examining your ulcer and evaluating your venous health during an initial consultation.
Endovenous Laser Treatment
Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT™) is a 30-minute procedure in which a small catheter is guided into a compromised vein using ultrasound. Once it’s in place, the catheter emits laser energy that weakens the vein walls, eventually causing the vein to collapse in on itself. The ablated vein gradually disappears and blood reroutes to healthier veins.
In an ambulatory phlebectomy, tiny incisions are made along the targeted vein. The vein is then precisely removed in sections using a specialized hook tool. Dr. Jimenez may use this microsurgical technique to treat surface varicose veins that are too large to treat with sclerotherapy or too small to treat with EVLT™.
Ultrasound-Guided Foam Sclerotherapy
Foam sclerotherapy treats incompetent veins with little to no downtime. During the procedure, microinjections of a “foamed” sclerosing agent (also called a “sclerosant”) are administered into a vein using ultrasound to guide proper placement. Multiple treatments, scheduled four to six weeks apart, may be needed for optimal results.
Patients who have had past vein surgery or procedures, such as vein stripping, may achieve the best results with scleroablative therapy. Scleroablative therapy involves injecting a sclerosant into the targeted vein in combination with laser ablative therapy. Dr. J may recommend this approach for recurrent or residual bulging veins and complex varicose vein cases.
How Can I Prevent Venous Ulcers?
The final step in venous ulcer treatment is reducing the risk of recurrence. Unfortunately, venous ulcers frequently reoccur, and some can persist for years. To prevent venous ulcers, you must first prevent vein problems. Finding ways to improve your vein health with positive lifestyle changes and healthy habits is an important management task that may require daily attention.
You may be instructed to elevate your legs above your heart several times a day. Long-term use of compression stockings may be recommended to prevent blood pooling in your legs. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight and then maintaining a healthy weight can lower the pressure placed on your venous system. Avoid smoking, prolonged standing or sitting, extremes of temperature and overly tight shoes and socks. Finally, regular exercise and walking are essential for continuing to improve calf muscle pump function and promote good circulation.
Contact The Vein Center of Florida & South Baldwin for Venous Ulcer Treatment With Dr. Jimenez
Do you have an open sore on your leg that refuses to go away? It might be a venous ulcer that could worsen severely without appropriate treatment.
To find lasting solutions for venous ulcers or vein disease, visit The Vein Center of Florida & South Baldwin. We offer highly-effective, minimally-invasive treatments that provide symptom relief while addressing the underlying causes of venous ulcers, varicose veins and other conditions. Venous ulcer treatment can greatly improve your quality of life and doesn’t have to involve painful, invasive surgery. We promise to go beyond the surface to treat the underlying cause of vein disease, using treatments thoughtfully designed to give you the results you’re really looking for.
Call The Vein Center of Florida today at 1-800-910-VEIN (8346), or visit our contact page to request a free vein screening. We serve The Emerald Coast and beyond from offices conveniently located in Pensacola and Destin, Florida, and Foley, Alabama.