What are the treatments for venous insufficiency and leg ulcers?


Treatments for venous insufficiency are aimed at reducing swelling and improving the return of blood to the heart. Elevating the legs (above the heart) when not standing helps the blood return to the heart, decreases blood pooling, and ultimately decreases swelling. Exercise, which stimulates the calf muscles and increases circulation, may also be recommended.

Doctors treat venous ulcers by working to prevent infection and promote healing of the wound. Many novel treatments, outlined below, are now available to help heal venous ulcers.

Topical creams: Topical creams containing hydrocortisone minimize itching and anti-fungal creams can prevent infection from developing on the skin of the feet and toes.

Compression stockings: These special stockings apply constant, even pressure to the leg. This increases circulation and prevents blood from flowing backward. In addition, compression stockings can help prevent venous ulcers from forming or can help accelerate the healing of an existing ulcer.

Unna Boots: An Unna Boot is a moist gauze bandage that is applied around the lower leg, from the region of the ulcer to just below the knee. The gauze hardens to form a snug boot on the leg. The support from the boot helps improve blood flow in the veins and heal the ulcer.

Transparent Dressings: A transparent dressing is a clear, plastic-like film that is applied over the wound. A support stocking is worn over the dressing to help hold it in place and improve circulation in the leg and foot.

Hydrocolloid Dressings: A hydrocolloid dressing is a specialized bandage with a breathable outer layer that keeps liquid, bacteria, and viruses out, and an inner layer that absorbs drainage from the wound to promote healing. The dressing also helps to remove any non-living tissue from the wound (a process called debridement).

Growth Factors: Growth factors are investigational medications that doctors apply to the wound in the hope of promoting the growth of new tissue.

Debridement: During debridement vascular specialists surgically remove all non-viable, infected tissue and bone from a non-healing ulcer. This process activates blood component called platelets and growth factors, which both promote healing. Doctors often perform debridement if a patient with a venous ulcer shows signs of infection including fever, elevated white blood count, and persistent or increased drainage.

Continue Learning about Vascular Disease

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.