Lower Extremity Thrombosis

Treating Cardiovascular Diseases in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois

Lower extremity ulcers are wounds or open sores that develop on the legs and feet and do not heal or stay healed. Leg ulcers causes (anchor link to the causes section) can vary, depending on whether they are venous, arterial or neurotrophic in nature.

  • Arterial ulcers, which are caused by atherosclerosis or arterial embolization (blood clots in an artery) that lead to ischemia or death of the skin.
  • Neurotrophic ulcers, often referred to as diabetic ulcers, occur in people who have diabetes or any impaired sensation of the feet.
  • Venous ulcers, which are the most common, develop when leg veins are unable to return blood back to the heart as they normally would.

Leg Ulcers Symptoms 

  • Venous ulcers are commonly found on the sides of the lower leg, mid-calf above the ankle. The first signs of a venous ulcer may be skin that turns dark red or purple. The skin in that area may also become thick, dry and itchy. Pain associated with venous ulcers is usually relieved by elevation of the leg.
  • Arterial ulcers are often located on the feet or toes. The base of the ulcer may have gray tissue with little to no bleeding. Pain is present, especially at night, when lying down. The pain may improve when the leg is dangling or hung over the edge of the bed. There may be an absence of hair on the leg, pale skin and no palpable pulses.
  • Neurotrophic ulcers are usually located at pressure points on the bottom of the feet, but they can also occur anywhere trauma to the foot occurred. 

Leg Ulcers Causes

Your risk for developing lower extremity ulcers increases with the following:

  • Arterial embolization
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Being older than 65
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Living in a long-term care facility
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Vasculitis
  • Venous insufficiency

Better blood flow in the legs can help prevent and treat lower extremity ulcers. The following factors can help improve your blood circulation:

  • Control your cholesterol level
  • Exercise regularly with a walking program
  • Maintain a healthy diet by limiting sodium and fatty foods
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage your blood pressure
  • Manage your diabetes
  • Quit smoking
  • Take your medications as directed

Diagnosing Leg Ulcers

Your doctor will diagnose a lower extremity ulcer based on your health history, a physical exam and various test results. Your personal and family health histories will help identify potential risk factors. A physical exam may reveal signs of a lower extremity ulcer.

When doctors suspect a lower extremity ulcer, they may recommend several imaging tests to study how well blood is flowing through the leg’s arteries and veins. These may include:

  • Angiography 
  • Ankle-brachial index
  • CT 
  • Doppler ultrasound
  • MRI 

How to Treat Leg Ulcers

Treatment for leg ulcersvaries, depending on their severity and whether they are venous or arterial. If infection is present, antibiotics will be prescribed. To prevent blood clots, antiplatelet or anticoagulant medications may be prescribed.

There are many non-invasive wound care therapies, such as dressings, hyperbaric treatments and compression stockings. There may also be a need for interventional therapies such as percutaneous transluminal angioplasty (PTA), angioplasty or stenting or even lower extremity peripheral bypass surgery.

A Leader in Treating Deep Vein Leg Ulcers

Aurora doctors are located throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Aurora Health Care provides a multidisciplinary team approach to treating lower extremity ulcers and other vascular conditions. Our team includes vascular medicine specialists, cardiologists, imaging specialists, surgeons and wound care specialists all under one roof to provide you with the best treatment for your needs.

Find a doctor or heart specialist near you. To get a second opinion or if you need assistance finding a provider, please call 888-649-6892.