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What are venous leg ulcers?

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Quick Answer

Venous leg ulcers are shallow wounds that occur when the veins in the leg do not send blood back to the heart properly, according to WebMD. This condition is known as venous insufficiency, and one result is ulcers that form between the calf and ankle, along the sides of the leg.

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Full Answer

Veins feature valves that keep blood moving in the direction of the heart. Venous insufficiency results from damage to the valves, causing blood to gather in the vein rather than moving ahead. In this case, fluid sometimes leaks from the vein and enters the nearby tissue, leading to tissue decay and the formation of an ulcer. Blocked veins have a similar effect on nearby tissue, as stated by WebMD.

Several conditions elevate a person's risk for venous leg ulcers. These include obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking or work that involves long hours of standing. Another condition that elevates the risk for venous leg ulcers is deep vein thrombosis, a condition marked by formation of clots in the deep leg veins, notes WebMD.

The initial symptom of a venous leg ulcer is a reddening of the skin where blood has started to leak from the vein. In some cases, the skin also becomes itchy and dry. Swift treatment can stave off an ulcer, but if the ulcer has formed, treatment focuses on enhancing blood circulation, reports WebMD.

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