What Causes Venous Ulcers and How to Prevent Them

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Ulcers are open sores on the skin that can affect any area. However, they are most often found on the legs.

How are venous ulcers caused? According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “venous ulcers are leg ulcers caused by problems with blood flow (circulation) in your leg veins.”

As Johns Hopkins Medicine states, most cuts or scrapes we experience trigger our body’s healing process to work right away. And eventually, the wound will heal with no issues. However, ulcers are another level of wound that may not be able to heal on their own.

Let’s get into what the main causes of venous ulcers are, and what you can do to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Venous vs. Arterial Ulcers

Before we dig into the causes, we are going to cover the difference between venous and arterial ulcers because they are two completely different things.

Arterial ulcers are due to a lack of blood flow the the skin caused by damage to the arteries. This is an extremely serious condition if left untreated could potentially result in an amputation.

And venous ulcers are a result of damage to the veins caused by a lack of blood from back up to the heart.

Thus, the causes of each ulcer type is different, and the prevention is different as well.

Main Causes of Venous Ulcers

There are a few reasons that venous ulcers occur.

Varicose veins

Venous ulcers can also be caused by varicose veins. In fact, did you know that five to ten percent of people with varicose veins will potentially develop open sores or ulcers? Varicose veins are enlarged, bulgy veins that occur under the skin, but can oftentimes go much deeper to places where you can’t even see them. If left untreated, varicose veins can lead to bigger issues such as venous ulcers. Varicose veins cause blood to pool in the lower leg, which can cause a whole slew of issues.


Examples of Vein Disease

Deep vein thrombosis

According to a National Library of Medicine study, “as the pressure in the damaged venous system remains pathologically high, a result of DVT, swelling develops . . . and varicosities often develop.” These symptoms are a precursor to chronic venous ulcers, and many patients suffering from deep vein thrombosis experience them.

How to Prevent Venous Ulcers

The best way to prevent venous ulcers is to stay away from things that trigger vein problems in the first place.

The top causes of varicose veins and other vein issues include:

  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Sedentary lifestyle

So in order to avoid venous ulcers, it’s best to be as healthy as possible and stay away from the risks associated with any of the above.

Losing weight helps to alleviate additional pressure that builds up in the vein with extra weight. That pressure can lead to damaged skin and damaged veins.

Regular movement and exercise paired with a healthy, well-rounded and balanced diet are the keys to losing weight in a safe and effective way.

Compression stockings are another great option to help prevent venous ulcers. These stockings work because they are designed to help with your circulation and encourage blood flow to move up towards your heart, which is where damaged veins really struggle. The best results are seen when compression stockings are worn all day until bed.

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Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Satish Vayuvegula
Dr. Satish Vayuvegula is the National Medical Director at Vein Clinics of America. Certified by the American Board of Venous & Lymphatic Medicine, Dr. Satish Vayuvegula is recognized as a physician who has met rigorous standards of knowledge and extensive training in phlebology, the diagnosis and treatment of varicose vein disease and related disorders. Dr. Satish also shares his passion and expertise by serving as a board member of the American Vein and Lymphatic Society, the predominant national organization for venous and lymphatic disease.

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