Recent Study Finds Earlier Treatment for Leg Ulcers Leads to Improved Outcomes

Circulation Problems: More Than Skin Deep

When it comes to conditions like varicose veins or leg ulcers, there’s a common assumption that the problems are largely cosmetic. But the fact of the matter is that these are more than aesthetic issues; leg ulcers, which affect one percent of adults, and 3.6 percent of those above 65, lead to a range of uncomfortable symptoms with heavy legs, pain, and swelling among them. Extreme cases can even lead to the loss of parts of lower limbs.

Treatments vary for leg ulcer, and the good news is that they’re largely successful. However, according to a recent study spearheaded by researchers from the Imperial College London, UK, the timing of when you get help can make a big difference. They found that those who had treatments that closed up problematic veins, such as radiofrequency ablation (RFA) or sclerotherapy, within two weeks of developing symptoms had much better outcomes.

Let’s take a closer look at the problem of leg ulcers, as well as what this study says about treatment.

Leg Ulcers: Causes & Concerns

Basically, the formation of leg ulcers is characterized by an inability of blood in the legs below the knees to get back to the heart due to vein disorders. What this leads to is the formation of wounds that either heal very, very slowly, or refuse to heal at all. In many cases, skin and even fat layers in problem areas disappear, and the problem is often accompanied by varicose veins.

This is an uncomfortable and unsightly problem, but what are the symptoms? Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Dryness of skin.
  • Itchiness in the area.
  • Eczema (flaky, dry skin).
  • Leg swelling.
  • Infections at would site.
  • Discoloration of skin in the area.

In addition to the above, there are more intangible effects: this discomfort can negatively impact quality-of-life, disrupt sleep, elevate social anxiety, and lead to increased medical costs. Clearly, leg ulcers shouldn’t be ignored.

The Benefits of Acting Quickly

So how did the Imperial College researchers get their results? They split up 450 leg ulcer patients into two groups: one that had treatment within two weeks of the ulcer forming, and a control group that had treatments once the main symptoms had passed. Participants in both groups underwent either ablation techniques, in which problem veins are dissolved using heat, or sclerotherapy, which utilizes a specialized injected solution.

It was immediately clear that those who had earlier and more timely treatment for symptoms experienced quicker recovery. The former group averaged about 56 days of healing time, while this jumped up to 82 days among the latter. More successful outcomes were also seen for the group that got therapy sooner; ulcer healing rates were 85.6 percent for this group as compared to 76.3 percent from the control. Clearly, being quick and responsive about treatment for leg ulcers and vein diseases yields better results.

Changing Treatment Approaches

And while these research results are certainly significant for patients—they’re a good argument for listening to your body and being responsive to symptoms—they also point a finger at medical professionals. According to the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Alun Davies, “[leg ulcers] represent a huge cost to the NHS”—England’s national health system—”However, at the moment, most patients are offered only compression stockings without being referred on for treatment that tackles root of the problem – the faulty vein.” The recommended route would be quicker and timelier referrals to vein specialists.

Certainly, as research continues, approaches to treatment will become further refined. If you suspect you’re suffering from leg ulcers, seek out medical attention as soon as you can and see if your doctor can’t refer a specialist to the case. With the right medical team in place, there’s no doubt that you’ll get back on your feet free of these uncomfortable and unsightly issues. The first step, though, is up to you.

 

If you’d like to learn more about treatments for diseased veins, varicose veins, spider veins, leg ulcers, or related conditions, the team at Hamilton Vein Center can help. They offer a range of treatment approaches and have helped countless Texas-based patients find effective relief. Learn more about what they do by calling their Houston office at (281) 916-5660, the Austin office at (512) 710-1114, or San Antonio’s clinic at (210) 405-4707 today!

 

References

  1. Agale, Shubhangi. 2013. “Chronic Leg Ulcers: Epidemiology, Aetiopathogenesis, And Management”. Hindawi. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/258393549_Chronic_Leg_Ulcers_Epidemiology_Aetiopathogenesis_And_Management/.
  2. Wighton, Kate. 2018. “Early Treatment For Leg Ulcers Gets Patients Back On Their Feet | Imperial News | Imperial College London”. Imperial News. Accessed May 31 2018. http://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/185868/early-treatment-ulcers-gets-patients-back/.