Untreated vein disease and leg vein disorders often progress to complications. Often the first sign is pigmentation or darkening of the skin. This mostly occurs in the lower leg between the knee and ankle. Pigmentation may progress to skin thickening and eventually to open wounds or ulcers. Without proper treatment, an ulcer may grow progressively larger until it encircles the leg and causes severe disability for the individual.
Ulcers are a serious problem and occur in about one of every fifty adults. They constitute a serious cause of loss of time from work and have a major impact on the individual’s quality of life.
It has been estimated that the cost of caring for a leg ulcer is in the range of $20,000/year, or a total cost in the USA of about one billion dollars per year to the health care dollar.
Leg ulcers may be caused by vein disease and varicose veins, mostly perforator veins. These leg ulcers are called venous ulcers. Leg ulcers may also be caused by poor flow in the arteries leading to the foot or by nerve damage related to diabetes. If a venous ulcer is mistaken for another kind of ulcer, local care may not be appropriate as the venous ulcer will not heal unless the abnormal back pressure in the diseased perforator veins is countered.
Moreover, most physicians were taught in the past that venous ulcers are almost always caused by previous blood clots in deep veins and usually can only be treated by life-time use of compression garments. What we know now in the vein specialty is that most venous ulcers are indeed caused by the disease of the superficial veins, not deep veins, and can be effectively treated after proper diagnosis. Thus, while it is often thought by non-vein experts that venous ulcers are a complication of deep vein disease, it is essential to have an expert evaluation with ultrasound of both the deep and superficial vein systems by an experienced vein doctor to make the proper diagnosis. Our physician is well trained and experienced to accurately diagnose the true origin of a leg ulcer and to select the proper treatment plan.