Venous vs. Arterial Leg Ulcers: What You Need to Know

Leg ulcers are a common symptom of circulatory problems such as venous insufficiency and arterial disease. These ulcers vary based on the underlying condition and are classified as either venous or arterial. The following guide will help you understand what a leg ulcer is and the differences between these two types.

What Are Leg Ulcers?

A leg ulcer is a patch of skin where the tissue underneath is exposed because the outer layers of skin are gone. Essentially, the skin breaks and allows bacteria and germs to enter the body. Leg ulcers can be either acute or chronic, with the chronic kind lasting more than 4 weeks and often arising from a more complex cause than the acute kind.

Arterial vs. Venous Leg Ulcers

The majority of leg ulcers — about 80 percent — are venous ulcers. About 15 percent are arterial and the rest are caused by a wide variety of other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes. The two types typically have somewhat different causes. Venous ulcers, for example, are often associated with deep vein thrombosis (blood clots), varicose veins, high blood pressure, multiple pregnancies, surgeries, fractures or injuries to the leg, excess weight, age, clotting problems, circulatory issues, and being immobile for extended periods. Arterial ulcers are typically associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, kidney failure, heart or vascular disease, clotting and circulatory problems, and collagen-vascular disorders.

Symptoms of Venous Ulcers

Venous ulcers occur below the knee and are most commonly found at the ankles, especially on the insides of the ankles. They usually don’t cause pain unless they become infected. The skin around them may become dry and discolored, and there may also be associated pain or swelling, especially in the calves. The pain often subsides when the legs are elevated. They’re frequently accompanied by varicose veins. Patients may also suffer inflammation, especially chronic inflammation that damages the lymphatic vessels underneath the skin, which in turn causes swelling and pressure in the lower part of the leg. They may also experience lipodermatosclerosis, which is a loss of tissue underneath the skin. This can cause that part of the leg to harden.

Symptoms of Arterial Ulcers

Unlike venous ulcers, arterial ulcers typically are painful, especially when the legs are elevated. However, lowering the legs may ease the pain, perhaps because the pull of gravity causes more blood to flow down into the legs. Patients with arterial ulcers might have feet in which the skin is shiny and either white or a bluish color. They may also experience cramping while walking, with the cramping subsiding when they stop walking. Arterial ulcers are most commonly found on the sides of the feet, ankles, toes or heels.

No matter which type of leg ulcer you’re suffering from, Alpha Vein Clinic can help you find relief from your symptoms. Our expert and caring staff have experience treating varicose veins and a wide range of other vein-related conditions for Las Vegas residents and can create a customized treatment plan for your situation.