WellSpan Home

Health Library

Venous Ulcers

When you get a cut or scrape, your body's healing process kicks in to close the wound, and in time, the wound heals. Open skin sores called ulcers, however, may not heal without proper treatment.

Ulcers can affect any area of the skin but commonly occur on the legs. Leg ulcers caused by circulation problems with the veins in the legs are known as venous ulcers.

Causes of venous ulcers

Venous ulcers most often form around the ankles. 

Illustration of a venous ulcer

Venous ulcers typically occur as a result of damage to the valves inside the veins of the leg. These valves control the pressure inside the veins and allow it to drop when you walk. If the blood pressure inside the leg veins doesn't fall as you're walking, the condition is sustained venous hypertension. That increase in pressure causes the ulcers to form on the ankles.

Venous ulcers may be caused by other problems with the veins in the legs, including a condition, chronic venous insufficiency, and varicose veins. Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when the veins in the legs are unable to pump blood back to the heart. This causes blood to pool in the lower legs and the legs to swell. Because the blood can't circulate well in the legs, the legs may swell significantly. This extreme swelling can put so much pressure on the skin that venous ulcers form.

Caring for venous ulcers

Venous ulcers require treatment and care to prevent infection and to help the ulcers heal, so it's important to have any venous ulcers examined immediately by a health care provider.

Treatment may require addressing the circulatory or vein problems that are causing the ulcers or removing some tissue around the wound. You may be asked to:

  • Clean the wound regularly.

  • Apply a dressing to the ulcer.

  • Avoid products that cause skin sensitivity.

  • Wear compression stockings to prevent blood from pooling in the legs and to speed healing.

  • Apply an antibacterial ointment or another topical to prevent or treat an infection.

  • Take oral antibiotic medications to prevent or treat an infection.

  • Undergo allergy testing.

Wearing a compression wrap to keep blood flowing back up to the heart can also help ulcers heal more quickly. Sometimes, surgery or a skin graft is required to close up the opening in the skin.

Preventing venous ulcers

To prevent venous ulcers, you first need to prevent vein problems. You can do this by promoting good circulation in the legs. These lifestyle changes can improve your circulation and reduce the risk for venous ulcers:

  • Avoid smoking.

  • Lose weight if you're overweight or obese.

  • Maintain your ideal weight.

  • Get plenty of regular exercise.

  • Move around frequently.

  • Elevate your legs for a short period, especially if you've been standing all day.

Wearing compression stockings can also prevent blood from pooling in the legs, help you avoid significant swelling, and reduce the risk for venous ulcers. 

Venous Ulcers - WellSpan Health

Author: Rodriguez, Diana
Online Medical Reviewer: Foster, Sara, RN, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 2013-10-31T00:00:00
Last Modified Date: 2013-12-31T00:00:00
Published Date: 2013-12-31T00:00:00
Last Review Date: 2012-04-16T00:00:00
© 2016 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.


Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.