Venous Ulcers

Venous leg ulcers are the most severe consequence of untreated venous reflux, but fortunately, they are often preventable and treatable.

It is estimated that 1% of the general population and 5% of patients with varicose veins will develop a chronic venous ulcer during their life. Once established, they can lead to a significant decrease in quality of life and patients may experience social and economic decline.

It is unfortunate that medical misunderstanding and failure to be proactive in preventing and treating the complications of venous reflux is largely to blame for these shocking statistics.

Like all things health related, prevention and early action is key.

Skin changes, such as the development of red, brown or “rust like” patches (hemosiderin staining, or venous eczema), are an early warning sign that an ulceration may occur. Eventually, white patches (atrophe blanche) may form, heralding the breakdown of the skin and leading to ulcer development

If you or a loved one has any of the above warning signs, specialist opinion and ultrasound assessment is recommended.

If there is reflux predominately affecting the superficial system, the chances of cure with endovenous treatments is high. If reflux is mainly affecting the deep system, a cure is unlikely and management involves wound dressings and compression garments.

If the patient is unable to walk or has poor ankle movement, interventions are less successful.

Key messages

  • Prevention is better than cure!

  • Treat symptomatic varicose veins before complications arise

  • Be on the lookout for skin changes (i.e itchiness, redness, discoloration and blanching)

  • Seek specialist evaluation BEFORE an ulcer develops

  • If an ulcer does develop seek prompt specialist evaluation

For expert advice on venous ulcers treatments and a consultation from a leading doctor, click here to request an appointment.

  • University of Melbourne