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Leg care and leg ulcers

Medical problems with your legs are common, particularly in later life. If they are not addressed they can lead to great discomfort and pain, unpleasant infections, and to difficulties with getting about.

The good news is that they can be avoided by doing simple exercises, through good leg care, and by the use of appropriate equipment or clothing.

Leg ulcers

A leg ulcer is a long-lasting (chronic) sore on your leg or foot that takes more than four to six weeks to heal. They most often develop on the inside of the leg, just above the ankle.

The symptoms of a leg ulcer include pain, itching and swelling in the affected leg. There may also be discoloured or hardened skin around the ulcer, and the sore may produce a foul-smelling discharge.

Common types of leg ulcers include:-

  • Venous leg ulcers - an develop after a minor injury, where persistently high pressure in the veins of the legs has damaged the skin.
  • Arterial ulcers - caused by poor blood circulation in the arteries

  • Diabetic leg ulcers - caused by the high blood sugar associated with diabetes

  • Vasculitic leg ulcers - associated with chronic inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus

  • Traumatic leg ulcers - caused by injury to the leg

  • Malignant leg ulcers - caused by a tumour of the skin of the leg

Varicose veins

Varicose veins are swollen and enlarged veins - usually blue or dark purple - that usually occur on the legs. They may also be lumpy, bulging or twisted in appearance.

Find out more at the NHS website.

Oedema

Oedema can occur anywhere in the body, but it's most common in the feet and ankles. This is known as peripheral oedema.

Oedema is the medical term for fluid retention in the body.

The build-up of fluid causes affected tissue to become swollen. The swelling can occur in one particular part of the body - for example, as the result of an injury - or it can be more general.

Find out more at the NHS website.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in one of the deep veins in the body.

Blood clots that develop in a vein are also known as venous thrombosis.

Find out more at the NHS website.

Lymphoedema

Lymphoedema is a chronic (long-term) condition that causes swelling in the body's tissues. It can affect any part of the body, but usually develops in the arms or legs.

Other symptoms of lymphoedema can include an aching, heavy feeling in affected body parts and difficulty moving them

Find out more at the NHS website.

Do

Don't

  • Cross your legs for long periods
  • Stand still for long periods
  • Have very hot baths
  • Ignore any sores or irritations
  • Assume that your leg will just get better by itself
  • Remain inactive for extended periods, e.g. long journeys

If your veins are not working properly you may experience skin changes and other signs which will indicate what is happening under the surface of the skin.

Do you have any of the following problems?

  • Reddish / brown staining above the ankle
  • Sores that appear within the stained skin
  • Itchy patches above the ankle
  • Wounds or knocks that are slow to heal
  • Visible and painful varicose veins
  • Tired, throbbing and / or swollen legs

If you think you have any of the problems described on this page then you should consult a doctor or nurse and seek appropriate treatment.

The Tissue Viability (Wound Management) Service

The CLCH Tissue Viability (Wound Management) Service support people in Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea who have developed the kinds of leg conditions described on this page.

They run a variety of wound care clinics in the community and also visit patients in their home, as well as patients in nursing and residential homes.

Referral to the service is usually via a doctor, nurse or other health professional, but never be afraid to ask your doctor if the service might be appropriate for you.

Activa Health Care are a private company who are the recognised partner to the local NHS in supporting people with leg care problems.
On their website they provide information and advice on leg problems and good leg care, and offer you the chance to buy compression hosiery, bandages and other treatment options.