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Leg ulcer, venous - Symptoms of venous leg ulcer

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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A venous leg ulcer is a chronic non-healing wound with broken skin and exposed tissue.

Venous leg ulcers are usually found on the inside of the leg, just above the ankle. They are often painful, particularly when infected (see below). However, with correct treatment the pain can often be resolved.

If you have a venous leg ulcer, you may also have:

  • swollen ankles filled with fluid that temporarily hold the imprint of your finger when pressed (known as pitting oedema)
  • discolouration and darkening of your skin around the ulcer (known as haemosiderosis)
  • hardened skin around the ulcer, which may make your leg feel hard and resemble the shape of an upside-down champagne bottle (known as lipodermatosclerosis)
  • small, smooth areas of white skin, which may have tiny red spots (known as atrophie blanche)

The associated symptoms of a venous leg ulcer are caused by blood not flowing properly through your veins. This is known as venous insufficiency, and can cause:

  • leg pain, which can be continuous or may come and go
  • a heavy feeling in the affected leg
  • aching
  • itching
  • swelling
  • varicose eczema (itchy, irritated skin associated with varicose veins)

Infection

A venous leg ulcer can be vulnerable to bacterial infection. Symptoms of an infected leg ulcer include:

  • worsening pain
  • a high temperature of 38ºC (100.4ºF) or above
  • a painful, tender red region developing rapidly around the ulcer

When to seek medical advice

You should always contact your GP if you think you have developed a venous leg ulcer. Venous leg ulcers are unlikely to get better on their own. They require specialist medical treatment.

Read more information about how venous leg ulcers are treated.

Medical Review: April 14, 2012
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