For the vast majority of patients, varicose veins cause only symptoms of leg discomfort and swelling. In some patients, over the course of time, just as smoking damages the lungs, varicose veins can damage the skin. The result is darkening of the skin, changes in skin texture, and possibly open skin sores.
Venous ulcers are wounds or open sores on the lower extremities, which are very slow to heal and often reoccur. They affect over 500,000 people in the United States and account for 80-90% of all leg ulcers. They are associated with venous insufficiency or may be a complication of a post-thrombotic syndrome (blood clots). The patient may suffer from pain, infection and disfigurement.
Venous ulcers can be diagnosed in my Albuquerque vein clinic with a history and physical exam along with a duplex ultrasound exam and can readily be distinguised from other causes of ulcers including arterial (ischemic ulcers) and diabetic foot ulcers. A well-performed duplex ultrasound is the key to identifying the refluxing (reverse-flowing) veins that are contributing to the ulcer.
In-office minimally invasive procedures including endovenous laser ablation and endovenous chemical ablation can be used to close the abnormal veins. Along with compression therapy, this provides us the best opportunity to heal the ulcer.
However, keeping the ulcers closed permanently requires regular follow-up and care as the years go by. Compression stockings will be an added benefit in healing the ulcer and keeping it closed. Patients with a history of ulcer should be in knee-high compression for life.