Understanding the Cause of Chronic Venous Ulcers

Did you know that 70% – 90% of all lower extremity ulcers are due to vein dysfunction and more than half of those ulcers are recurrent? Venous reflux disease is a progressive medical condition that if left untreated, may worsen over time and develop into a more serious form of venous disease called chronic venous insufficiency, which is the underlying cause of venous ulcers.

Healthy veins have valves that keep blood flowing to the heart. People who have venous reflux disease have valves that have stopped working properly, allowing blood to flow backward and pool in the lower extremities.

At the beginning of this disease process, there may be no visible signs of venous disease. Over time, there may be more of the following visible signs of venous disease (ordered by increasing severity): Telangiectasias (spider veins), reticular veins, varicose veins, edema (swelling), skin discoloration and pigmentation changes and lastly, active, non-healing venous ulcers. Along with these visual signs of venous disease, the following additional symptoms often occur, including but not limited to: Ankle swelling, leg heaviness, leg fatigue, leg pain, aching, cramping, burning, itching, restless legs, skin rashes and open wounds.

The pain, reduced mobility and other symptoms associated with venous leg ulcers greatly impact patient quality of life. The takeaway message is to treat chronic venous insufficiency before it develops into a more serious condition requiring constant wound care for chronic, non-healing ulcers. Medical intervention is recommended to treat chronic venous insufficiency sooner rather than later in order to prevent the natural progression of venous disease.

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