Whilst many people have not heard of a leg ulcer, they are surprisingly common. In fact up to 1% of adults in the UK will have one at some time in their lives and district nurses can spend up to 22% of their time treating leg ulcers.
A leg ulcer is an area of damage on the skin, below the knee or on the foot which fails to heal after several weeks. What can start out as a minor knock or scratch; (often on something everyday like a supermarket trolley) can potentially turn into a leg ulcer. For a wound not to heal, other factors are involved e.g. poor venous return, infection or diabetes.
Whilst sufferers may dismiss it as "nothing" and not seek treatment for weeks, months or even years, it is vital that any wound on the leg is seen by a nurse or GP if it has not healed within 4-6 weeks.
The majority of leg ulcers are venous in origin (70%), meaning the sufferer's blood does not flow back to the heart as well as it should, which delays healing. Until this is corrected, a leg ulcer cannot heal - which is why some patients have had an ulcer for many years.
However, on a positive note, the use of compression bandages and compression hosiery means that most venous leg ulcers can be successfully healed and will not return.
20% of ulcers are arterial (poor blood flow from the heart to the leg) with the remainder resulting from diabetes, rheumatoid disease and various other conditions.
If you have just been diagnosed with a leg ulcer or think you may have one, you are not alone. Up to 1% of the adult population will suffer from a leg ulcer at some point in their lives. A leg ulcer is a wound found below the knee on the leg or foot which has not healed after 4-6 weeks. The ulcer is often the result of something very minor, such as a scratch whilst gardening.
Having a leg ulcer can make some people feel quite depressed, especially if you are not able to go out or wear normal shoes. They can also be very painful, but this varies from person to person. Sometimes germs in the wound can make it smell and this can make you feel embarrassed or make people not wish to visit anymore. A smelly wound is not a sign that you are not clean, but it does need a doctor or nurse to sort it out. Some leg ulcers produce a lot of fluid, so you may not feel like leaving the house.
If you have a sore or wound on your leg that does not seem to be getting better (after 4-6 weeks) it is important that you go and see your doctor, or ask a doctor to see you if you cannot leave the house. Often people with leg ulcers (sores) think they will get better by themselves and do not want to bother their doctor.
Seeing the Doctor
The doctor will never dismiss your concerns and would rather see an ulcer earlier rather than later. If the sore smells or produces lots of fluids then the doctor may give you antibiotics. Normally, once a leg ulcer has been diagnosed, a nurse who specialises in leg ulcers will be in charge of looking after you.
The type of treatment you receive depends on the type of ulcer you have. If it is a venous ulcer you will have a wound covering (dressing) put on the sore to help it heal or to get rid of any fluid or germs in the wound. Firm compression bandages will then be put on top of the wound covering.
Compression bandages give the greatest firmness at your ankle and their job is to push the blood up the veins in your leg and back to your heart. The compression bandages are very important in helping your leg ulcer to heal as they keep your blood flowing and good blood flow lets the wound heal.
The bandages and the wound covering will probably be applied by a nurse. If the wound is making lots of fluid then the nurse will change the bandages and wound covering every few days, after that you may see the nurse just once a week.
The good news is that most venous leg ulcers will get better quite quickly once treatment starts. The wound may take a few months to fully heal and after it is better, you will probably need to wear compression hosiery to help prevent it coming back.
Once your leg ulcer is better, it is important to wear hosiery to prevent it coming back. The majority of leg ulcers do come back unless you wear compression socks or stockings. Therefore, if your nurse prescribes hosiery for you, it is important that you wear it.
Modern hosiery is light, attractive and virtually indistinguishable from normal hosiery. Activa compression hosiery is the UK’s no.1 brand and comes in a range of styles and colours, including unisex ribbed or patterned socks. These can be obtained on prescription.
The first step in managing venous ulceration is to perform a holistic assessment of the patient, and any systemic or local factors which could affect wound healing should be addressed.
A visual examination will identify signs of chronic venous insufficiency and a full vascular assessment, using Doppler ultrasound and/or pulse oximetry, will eliminate the presence of significant arterial disease.
A convenient kit to treat ulcers in mobile and immobile patients. Suitable for patients with mild oedema. Designed to be comfortable day and night.
The Comfort layer is applied first first followed by the compression layer. The bandages are so slim that normal shoes can be worn.
Actico is a cohesive inelastic bandaging system indicated for the treatment of venous leg ulcers and chronic oedema.
Suitable for patients needing full leg bandaging or with an irregular shaped limb.
Apply with 100% stretch application, reducing the risk of over compression.
Activa produces a compression hosiery kit to treat leg ulcers. Very easy to apply a 10mmHg silky stocking is worn under a Class 3 (25-35mmHg) stocking, providing the compression required for leg ulcer healing.
The Activa Leg Ulcer Hosiery Kit is ideal for a small ulcer and regular shaped limb.
Post Healing: Compression Hosiery and Leg Ulcers
Compression hosiery has been clinically proven to reduce leg ulcer recurrence and is now routinely used when an ulcer has healed.
Selecting hosiery patients are happy to wear has never been easier. The Activa range includes patterned and ribbed unisex socks which are virtually indistinguishable for normal hosiery.
For patients with oedema the ActiLymph range should be prescribed.
How to assist patient compliance
Activa Hosiery Sizer instantly works out the size of hosiery you need. Simply key in the measurements and it does the rest!
This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a health care professional. Consumers should rely on the judgement of a health care professional for specific conditions.
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