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What Is a Venous Stasis Ulcer?

Compression stockings may help restore leg circulation to patients affected by venous stasis ulcers.
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  • Written By: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2014
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Venous stasis is a disease in which the blood circulation in the legs is compromised. This is typically due to malfunctioning vein valves. Sometimes, a person may be born without the proper valves. Patients with severe, long-lasting cases of venous stasis may develop a wound or sore on the lower leg, called a venous stasis ulcer. It is among the most common type of leg ulcer.

These ulcers may be caused by trauma to the lower leg. Or, a venous stasis ulcer may occur simply because the patient scratched himself vigorously in that location and broke the skin. Due to the compromised blood circulation, this wound often does not heal properly and can increase in size.

In addition to the venous stasis ulcer itself, patients may notice accompanying symptoms. Often, they suffer from edema, or swelling, in the lower legs due to improper blood flow. The area may also be painful and itchy. Veins in the lower legs may appear abnormally large and twisted.

Ulcers are typically slow to heal. Venous stasis ulcers are often red in appearance, but may be covered with yellow tissue. If it becomes infected due to poor treatment, patients may notice a significant amount of yellowish or greenish discharge.

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It is possible for a venous stasis ulcer to heal, however this is more likely to occur if the patient has one for less than a year. Ulcers that have lasted for longer than that may decrease in size, but are less likely to heal completely. Patients that receive prompt treatment for this condition generally have a more favorable prognosis.

To treat a venous stasis ulcer, a doctor will likely apply a dressing to the wound. This type of ulcer may be treated with several different kinds of dressings, including those that are antimicrobial. The physician will provide a patient with specific instructions regarding proper care and changing of the bandage. If the wound is infected, antibiotics will likely be prescribed. Patients should always take the full course of the drugs, even if it appears that the infection is clearing up.

Compression wrappings are also often used to reduce swelling and help restore blood flow to the area. Patients may wear compression stockings, wraps, or bandages on the leg. Another treatment possibility is an Unna boot, which is a stocking that applies compression and is also coated with a medication.

Patients may also consider lifestyle changes to aid the healing process. Those who smoke should quit, to improve blood circulation. A well-balanced, low-sodium diet may also help. Patients should consult with their doctors regarding a consistent and low-impact exercise plan, which may also improve blood circulation. Venous stasis patients should check their legs and feet daily for signs of possible injury, and immediately seek a doctor's care if they see anything abnormal.

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