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Venous insufficiency has a variety of symptoms, one of the worst being venous ulcers. Venous ulcers have several names, including stasis, insufficiency, or varicose ulcers.

What do venous ulcers look like?

There are a few different stages of venous insufficiency ulcers. First, a person may notice scaling and skin changes in the lower legs. Skin color may turn brown or yellowish in those areas. Dark red or purple may also appear as a result of the blood leaching from stretched vein walls.

As the problem progresses, large shallow wounds (the ulcers) begin to form, often in the lower legs. The wound may ooze, especially when being handled or wrapped. The ulcer will won’t typically be very painful, despite its disturbing appearance. Swelling and infection can set in at this stage. Infection is what makes an ulcer particularly dangerous, requiring medical attention.

What is the cause of venous ulcers?

Venous disease is characterized by malfunctioning blood valves. When blood circulation isn’t happening properly, pressure in the veins begins to increase. Blood begins to pool where it shouldn’t, and vein walls begin to stretch, allowing proteins in the blood to leach into surrounding tissue. Eventually this surrounding tissue breaks down until an open wound appears.

What do I do?

Elevating the limb can help decrease discomfort and swelling. Of utmost importance is keeping infection from the exposed area. A wound care specialist or vein specialist will remove dead or contaminated tissue. The area should be kept moist, and dressings should be changed frequently.

Most importantly, the underlying venous condition must be treated. Compression therapy may be used to prevent venous reflux.

Preventing venous ulcers

Venous ulcers are both unpleasant and dangerous. A preemptive, preventive approach is always best. If you are experiencing leg pain, swelling, heaviness and fatigue, visit a vein care specialist to learn about treatment options. Look for discoloration in the lower legs, or for spider veins to know if you may have a venous issue.