Venous Ulcers

Venous ulcers are wounds on the skin that are caused by problems with blood circulation in the veins. They can be painful and take a very long time to heal, sometimes leading to serious problems including disability. The vascular experts at The Vein Specialists provide accurate diagnoses and minimally invasive treatment options for venous ulcers.

About Venous Ulcers

Venous ulcers, or venous stasis ulcers, are the most common type of vascular ulcer. Vascular ulcers can occur when there is poor blood circulation in the veins or arteries. Specifically, venous ulcers result from poor circulation in the veins, while arterial ulcers result from poor circulation in the arteries. These wounds typically are found on the lower legs and feet, appearing as discolored sores that can leak discharge and be very painful. Vascular ulcers often do not heal on their own and are susceptible to infection if left untreated.

Risk Factors

Women and older adults are more likely to suffer from venous ulcers, especially those with circulation or heart conditions. Additional risk factors for developing leg sores include:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Poorly controlled high blood pressure
  • Family history of vein problems
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Hip or knee replacement procedures
  • Smoking
  • Heart disease
  • Tallness
  • Pregnancy
  • Sedentary lifestyle, including paralysis
  • Traumatic injuries, including broken bones that can damage nearby blood vessels
  • Varicose veins, inflamed blood vessels, and blood clots (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT)
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD)


Before a venous ulcer forms, patients may experience swelling and cramping in the legs, thickening and hardening of the skin, achiness or heaviness of the legs, skin discolorations, tingling, itching, and flakiness of the skin, and/or development of varicose veins. Once a venous ulcer is present, usually inside the leg or directly above the ankle, patients will notice a sore that is characterized by:

  • Discoloration, usually red, sometimes covered by a yellow layer of tissue
  • Uneven edges and a shallow appearance
  • Shiny, warm, tight, and discolored skin surrounding the wound
  • Pain
  • If infected, the wound may emit an unpleasant odor and expel pus


Because venous ulcers are prone to infection and can worsen over time, it is imperative to seek treatment as soon as possible. The experienced physicians at The Vein Specialists can evaluate your wound and create a personalized treatment plan to address root causes, eliminate pain, and encourage healing. Diagnosis will include a thorough physical exam and review of health and family history. Ultrasound may also be used to measure blood pressure and flow and observe tissues and fluids. Sometimes biopsy is required to identify possible infections.


Treatment for venous ulcers varies from patient to patient and depends on underlying conditions and the severity of the wound. Nonsurgical options to speed healing of venous ulcers include:

  • Wearing compression garments to promote blood flow to the legs and heart
  • Applying an antibacterial ointment
  • Taking a regimen of oral antibiotics and/or medications to eliminate infection, prevent clotting, and stimulate blood flow
  • Elevating the affected limb for an extended period of time to reduce pressure on the affected veins
  • Applying a special wound dressing called a vacuum-assisted closure to close the ulcer and eliminate moisture and bacteria
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which requires patients to spend time in hyperbaric chambers with high levels of pure oxygen to speed healing
  • Addressing varicose veins, an underlying cause of ulcers, using

You have questions. We have answers.

Below you'll find answers to some of the questions we are commonly asked by patients. Please contact us at (828) 670-8346 with any additional questions or concerns.

How can I prepare for venous ulcer treatments?
What can I expect during venous ulcer treatment?
How can I prevent vascular ulcers from coming back?
Despite treatment, vascular ulcers sometimes reoccur. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to lower your risk and the probability of reoccurence, such as:
  • Quitting smoking
  • Losing weight
  • Regularly elevating your legs throughout the day and at night
  • Routinely exercising
  • Applying moisturizing lotion
  • Avoiding injury
  • Wearing compression garments
  • Effectively managing conditions that lead to ulcers, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and circulation issues