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Leg ulcers - What are leg ulcers?

BMJ Group Medical Reference


Leg ulcers can be sore and stop you enjoying life. Some leg ulcers take a long time to heal, but almost all ulcers eventually get better.

Most leg ulcers heal within three to six months if they are treated.[1]

This information is for people who have a condition that doctors call venous leg ulcers. Here we don't look at how well these treatments work for people who have diabetes and get diabetic foot ulcers.

We've brought together the best research about leg ulcers and weighed up the evidence about how to treat them. You can use our information to talk to your doctor and decide which treatments are best for you.

A leg ulcer is a shallow sore on your lower leg that won't heal.

Leg ulcers sometimes start after a knock or bump breaks the skin on your lower leg. A wound can turn into a leg ulcer if it doesn't heal. This can happen if the blood flow to your legs is not good enough.

Doctors call these sores venous leg ulcers. Venous means the ulcer is caused by the veins. See How veins in your legs work.

Older people are more likely than younger people to get a leg ulcer. You are also more likely to get one if:[2][1]



Arthritis is when your joints become inflamed, making them stiff and painful. There are different kinds of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type. It happens when the cartilage at the end of your bones becomes damaged and then starts to grow abnormally. Rheumatoid arthritis happens because your immune system attacks the lining of your joints.

deep vein thrombosis

A deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that has formed in the deep veins of your arms or legs. These clots can form if a person doesn't move their limbs often enough. This is because blood is pushed through your veins by the contraction of muscles that occurs when a limb is moved. Blood tends to clot when it is not kept flowing, so clots can form if a person is not moving. Deep vein thrombosis is also called deep venous thrombosis or DVT.


Diabetes is a condition that causes too much sugar (glucose) to circulate in the blood. It happens when the body stops making a hormone called insulin (type 1 diabetes) or when insulin stops working (type 2 diabetes).

heart failure

When the heart loses its ability to push enough blood through the blood vessels, it is called heart failure.


Veins are blood vessels that carry blood back to your heart after your blood has delivered oxygen and food to the tissues.

For more terms related to Leg ulcers


For references related to Leg ulcers click here.
Last Updated: March 13, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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