Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

brand logo

Am Fam Physician. 2010;81(8):1003

See related article on venous leg ulcers.

What is a venous leg ulcer?

It is a shallow wound that happens when the veins in your legs are unable to properly pump blood to your heart. This can cause blood to pool inside your legs.

Venous ulcers usually happen in older people. You are more likely to get them if you are a woman, are overweight, or have had a leg injury or blood clot.

How do I know if my wound is a venous ulcer?

Venous ulcers are usually located on the legs, especially on the ankles, and don't heal on their own. The skin around the wound may be discolored, dark, or red. You may also have a dull ache or pain and swelling in your lower legs.

How are they treated?

Venous ulcers are usually treated with bandages or stockings that put pressure on your legs. Some of these are worn all of the time and need to be replaced by a doctor every few days. Others are worn only during the day, and you can put them on and take them off yourself. Your doctor may recommend gels or foams to put under the bandage to help the wound heal.

Sitting or lying down with your leg raised for 30 minutes, three or four times a day, can keep the swelling down. Your doctor may give you medicine to help the blood flow through your legs better.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

American Venous Forum

Society for Vascular Surgery

  • Web site:

Continue Reading

More in AFP

More in PubMed

Copyright © 2010 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP.  See permissions for copyright questions and/or permission requests.