How do venous leg ulcers develop?
Open wounds occurring due to venous insufficiency require specialized medical attention to aid wound healing as well as for everyday care. Venous leg ulcers are diagnosed in more than 1% of the global adult population each year. They mostly affect the elderly and can cause significant health complications if not attended to properly and on time.
The one-way valves in the veins of the legs push blood upwards towards the heart. In the condition called venous insufficiency, the valves are unable to do so, due to which the blood pools in the veins of the lower legs (stasis).
Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when these valves become damaged, allowing the blood to leak or flow backward. Valve damage may occur as the result of aging, extended sitting or standing, or a combination of both.
Due to prolonged pooling of blood in the lower veins, the blood pressure in the veins stays high for a long time.
Venous leg ulcers occur when, due to chronic venous insufficiency, the affected blood vessel bursts in the lower leg. Seepage of blood into the nearby tissues can cause internal tissue damage as well as the development of open sores on the overlying skin. These leg ulcers are highly prone to infection.
Venous leg ulcer signs and symptoms
Prior to the formation of open sores or ulcers, venous insufficiency can be detected through the recognition of the following symptoms –
- Swelling in the legs.
- Heaviness and tiredness in the legs.
- Dull pain and frequent cramping in the legs.
- Itching, redness (or purplish), hardened skin, especially in the lower legs.
- Formation of shallow, non-healing, open sores sometimes covered by yellow tissue.
Taking care of venous leg ulcers at home
In addition to professional medical care, there are several ways to take care of venous leg ulcers at home that can reduce discomfort and heal the open sores.
Compression wear (socks/stockings/bandages) –
Doctors advise the use of compression bandages for chronic venous insufficiency. Bandages squeeze the part of the leg applied on and help the veins to push the blood up to the heart. Venous leg ulcer compression therapy can help improve blood circulation and prevent further damage.
It is advised to strictly adhere to directions from the doctor regarding the application of compression bandages and socks. For venous leg ulcer home remedies and wound care regimes, both primary caregivers and patients should be educated on the proper use of compression wear for maximum benefit.
Wound dressing and care –
A venous leg ulcer is an open sore that can catch an infection from microbes very quickly. It is important to keep it clean at all times. Advanced Wound Care Dressings (AWC Dressings) can help keep them free from infection as well as aid in faster wound healing. After dead (necrotic) tissue is removed and the wound is cleaned, it should be covered with a light, wound healing dressing. This can be easily done at home by following the instructions of a wound specialist regarding the method of cleaning and the number of dressings required.
Avoid sitting or standing for long hours –
Being stationary for long hours leads to pooling of blood in the legs and development of venous leg ulcers.
Walking or moving the legs at regular intervals improves blood circulation and aids in pushing the blood in the veins up to the heart. Even moving the legs slightly helps in the circulation of blood.
Elevation of the legs –
The legs should be placed in an elevated position, ideally at 30 degrees to the heart, while lying down. This, again, helps in the movement of venous blood to the heart.This also prevents the build-up of liquid in the legs that leads to swelling. A cushion or any other object of comfort can be used to keep the toes above the level of the hip while sleeping.
Weight control –
Regular exercise can help maintain optimal blood circulation and reduce the effects of venous insufficiency. Losing excess weight also adds to the beneficial effects of exercise by decreasing pressure in the legs.
A healthy diet that aids wound healing accompanied by a regular exercise regime can be of great use in taking care of venous leg ulcers at home.
Reducing itchiness –
The pooling of blood in the legs can lead to itchiness. However, scratching the skin may cause it to break and form open sores that are venous leg ulcers. In case the itchiness is unbearable, consultant wound specialists or dermatologists can prescribe moisturizing ointments that can soothe the skin and reduce the itch.
Venous leg ulcers are preventable with regular exercise and a healthy diet. They can also be treated easily by a wound specialist. It is important to remember that they are recurring and can develop at intervals of months or years. Venous leg ulcers in the elderly can cause extreme discomfort, especially in the presence of co-morbidities.
Taking care of venous leg ulcers at home is easy and aids in the improvement of the general quality of life. Patients and caregivers can consult wound specialists for detailed, at-home wound care routines that can be followed to heal and prevent the recurrence of venous leg ulcers.
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