A leg ulcer is a break in the skin of the leg, exposing the tissue beneath to air and bacteria. These are often referred to as ‘open sores’. Normally, for a healthy person, when the skin is broken due to a cut or a graze, the body works to repair the broken skin and a scab will form to heal the wound, with new skin eventually growing in its place. However, if the wound does not heal, the broken skin will remain open, leading to infection.
Leg ulcers are a long-lasting problem for many people and they can be extremely painful. The most common type is a venous leg ulcer, which accounts for over 90 per cent of all leg ulcers. In fact, venous leg ulcers affect approximately one in 500 people in the UK, with one in 50 men and women over the age of 80 suffering from this condition. Other common types include arterial, diabetic, vasculitic, traumatic and malignant leg ulcers.
What causes them?
In most cases, these wounds are caused by a minor injury that breaks the skin, which is then made worse by an underlying problem. For example, venous leg ulcers are caused if there is an issue with the blood circulation in the veins of your legs, meaning the pressure inside the veins increases. Gradually, the high pressure can damage the small blood vessels in your skin, making it fragile and meaning it is easier to break.
There are a number of factors that can increase your chances of developing this problem. In regards to venous ulcers, being obese or overweight can put added pressure on the veins in your legs, and if you have difficulty walking, you may have weakened calf muscles which can have an impact on your circulation. Varicose veins and previous problems of deep vein thrombosis can also lead to an increased risk of ulcers.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptom is open, painful sores on the skin that usually develop on the inside of the leg just above the ankle. Other signs of this condition include discoloured or hardened skin around the ulcer, swollen ankles, a heavy, achy feeling in your legs, itchy skin on your legs, swollen or enlarged veins or an unpleasant, smelly discharge coming from the ulcer.
These wounds are particularly susceptible to infection. In this instance, you may notice your pain worsening and a green coloured discharge coming from the sore. You might also experience redness and swelling, and have a higher temperature than normal.
Leg ulcers can vary in size and differ in appearance. They can be big or small, and they can appear either wet or completely dry. In some cases, you may not even experience any pain at all.
What are the treatments?
In order to treat the problem successfully, it’s important to first address the underlying cause. You may find that making a few lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise and eating a healthy, balanced diet can help.
It’s also crucial that you use the right course of treatment for the type of sore you have. For example, if you have venous leg ulcers, you should first have any debris removed from the wound and then apply a suitable dressing. Ideally, the dressing should be non-sticky and changed on a weekly basis. While you can apply this yourself, you may need the supervision of a medical professional to ensure you do it correctly. You could also wear a compression bandage on the affected leg. This dressing is designed to improve vein circulation and reduce swelling, squeezing your leg to encourage blood to flow upwards and towards your heart. There are a number of different compression bandages that can be used, and they are to only be applied by a trained healthcare professional. If treated properly, you can expect venous leg ulcers to heal within four months.
It’s vital that you look after yourself while your leg heals and take extra care not to injure or hurt yourself. During this time, you should stay active and wear comfortable footwear. Whenever you are sitting or lying down you should try to keep your affected leg elevated.. You should also reduce your alcohol intake and stop smoking.
When should I see a doctor?
If you experience any of the common symptoms or you suspect there is a problem with your legs, it’s essential that you speak to your GP. They will be able to examine your leg and carry out a number of tests to determine what the problem is. Your doctor will most likely ask you about your medical history, and they’ll feel and assess your leg when you’re standing up and when you’re sitting down.
How can our products help?
At Adjustamatic, we offer a wide range of adjustable beds and riser recliner chairs that could help relieve the symptoms associated with leg ulcers. Our beds and chairs can be altered into a position that allows you to sit or lie with your legs elevated. Each model can also be fitted with our NHC Cyclo-Therapy massage technology, which has been specially designed to improve circulation and reduce pain.
To learn more about our products, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can contact us via our online form or you can give us a call on0800 301 7056..