Diagnosis and treatment of venous ulcers

Am Fam Physician. 2010 Apr 15;81(8):989-96.


Venous ulcer, also known as stasis ulcer, is the most common etiology of lower extremity ulceration, affecting approximately 1 percent of the U.S. population. Possible causes of venous ulcers include inflammatory processes resulting in leukocyte activation, endothelial damage, platelet aggregation, and intracellular edema. The primary risk factors for venous ulcer development are older age, obesity, previous leg injuries, deep venous thrombosis, and phlebitis. On physical examination, venous ulcers are generally irregular, shallow, and located over bony prominences. Granulation tissue and fibrin are typically present in the ulcer base. Associated findings include lower extremity varicosities, edema, venous dermatitis, and lipodermatosclerosis. Venous ulcers are usually recurrent, and an open ulcer can persist for weeks to many years. Severe complications include cellulitis, osteomyelitis, and malignant change. Poor prognostic factors include large ulcer size and prolonged duration. Evidence-based treatment options for venous ulcers include leg elevation, compression therapy, dressings, pentoxifylline, and aspirin therapy. Surgical management may be considered for ulcers that are large in size, of prolonged duration, or refractory to conservative measures.

MeSH terms

  • Comorbidity
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / physiopathology
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Varicose Ulcer* / complications
  • Varicose Ulcer* / diagnosis
  • Varicose Ulcer* / physiopathology
  • Varicose Ulcer* / therapy