Never Ignore Open Sores/Wounds on the Legs
- Posted on: Aug 7 2017
My name is Thomas E. Eidson, D.O., and I am a double board-certified physician specializing in the treatment of vein related problems in the legs. I am the founder of Atlas Vein Care in Arlington, TX and have devoted my practice to the treatment of vein problems in the legs for the last 5 years. Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you find it straightforward and educational.
If you came across this article, most likely either you or someone you know is suffering from one or possibly multiple open sores on the legs that simply won’t heal. Before we get down to business discussing the most common cause of non-healing ulcers or sores in the legs, let’s take a 30,000-foot look and then zoom in.
First off, a non-healing wound on the leg is any wound, sore or ulcer that has not healed, or at least improved over a 3-4 week period. A wound is technically considered “chronic” if it persists for 3 months or more. If the area of concern is gradually (or sometimes quickly) getting larger or deeper then this is of urgent concern and should be evaluated ASAP by a physician. We will get into what specific types of physicians to see here shortly so don’t go anywhere.
So what are some of the causes of non-healing sores on the legs? The more alarming causes of wounds on the legs include infections (skin infections or insect/spider bites) and sometimes even skin cancer can present as a wound or sore on the skin that simply will not completely heal. As alarming as this sounds, please rest a bit easy in knowing that less than 5% of wounds on the legs have either of these as the root cause.
So then what are the more common causes of non-healing wounds on the legs? From least to most common they are: Pressure Ulcers (~5%), Diabetic Ulcers (~5%), and Venous (vein) Ulcers (70-90%). With venous leg ulcers making up 70-90% of non-healing sores on the legs, let’s focus on venous problems in the legs, why it happens, and what can be done about it.
Vein problems in the legs are the most common vascular disease in the Unites States. Approximately 50% of men and women over the age of 40 suffer from some form of vein related issue in their legs. This comes to an estimated 50+ million people, most of whom do not know their leg symptoms are from vein related issues, and may not seek medical attention until they get non-healing sores or wounds.
Why does this happen? Our veins have one job: get blood out of our arms and legs and back to the heart. But the veins of the legs have a problem; they must fight gravity to get the blood back to the heart. So, in order to fight gravity, our veins have little one-way valves, check- valves if you will, to prevent blood from backwashing the wrong direction. If these valves get weak or damaged, blood can then backwash in the wrong direction causing pressure to build in the veins and tissue of the legs. Over time this pressure can cause a whole spectrum of problems, the worst of which is skin breakdown and ulcers or sores on the legs. Basically, because of the pressure in the veins and tissue, the skin and tissue begins to suffocate, starve, and die. This will ultimately lead to a sore or wound on the leg that will not heal requiring medical evaluation and intervention.
So, what can be done about it? First, you need to see an appropriate doctor for evaluation. I recommend a Phlebologist (Vein Disease Specialist) or Vascular Surgeon because most have specific training as it relates to venous disease, its evaluation and ultimately how to treat it. Depending on the severity of your case sometimes a team approach is needed and may include wound care specialists, infectious disease specialists, and sometimes plastic surgeons. Second, a proper diagnosis requires a very thorough ultrasound of the legs (Venous Reflux Study), which directs the treating physician to make treatment decisions. This ultrasound can take 30-60 minutes due to its complexity and thoroughness. This ultrasound creates a map of the veins of your legs directing the doctor to the root of the problem so treatment can be personalized to your case.
Third, the physician may start you on conservative management during this time including antibiotics, diet recommendations, and medical graduated compression socks. These conservative treatments only address the symptom you are having and will not fix the source of the problem.
Lastly, treating the underlying cause of the sores and wounds on the legs is the most direct way to help them heal and stay away. If a vein problem is found as the cause, it can now be easily treated. It can almost always be done in an office setting, takes about 30-60 minutes, and most patients have little to no pain or downtime during or after treatment. By eliminating the underlying cause of the problem, your body now has the best chance of healing and staying healed.
I hope you found this to be of benefit. If you or someone you know is suffering from non-healing sores or wounds on the legs remember that close to 90% of them are caused by vein problems and if left untreated, will only get worse. This is a very common medical condition that is easily treatable and is covered by most insurance companies, including Medicare and TriCare.
For more information on vein problems and the broad spectrum of symptoms they can cause, please check out our practice website www.AtlasVein.com. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
All my personal best to you and yours,
Dr. Thomas E. Eidson, DO
Founder, Atlas Vein Care
Posted in: Atlas Vein Care Blog