The impact of chronic venous leg ulcers: a systematic review

J Wound Care. 2014 Dec;23(12):601-12. doi: 10.12968/jowc.2014.23.12.601.


Objective: Chronic venous leg ulcers are common, intractable and often recurrent, but care tends to be wound focused, potentially overlooking the significant impact the condition has on patients' lives. A systematic review was undertaken to explore the factors that impact on the quality of life of patients with chronic venous leg ulceration.

Method: Eligible articles published between 1990 and 2013 were identified via electronic searches of research databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL, BNI, EMBASE, PsycINFO, AMED and HMIC, Cochrane Collaboration database and Google Scholar).

Results: There were 23 studies (11 qualitative and 12 quantitative) that met the inclusion criteria. There were then the subject of a full review. The qualitative studies were collapsed into four core themes: physical, psychological, social implications and the nurse-patient relationship. The quantitative studies were grouped according to the tool applied. The review demonstrated that chronic venous leg ulcers impact negatively upon all areas of daily living. Pain, exudate, odour and the impact on mobility were daily challenges. The ability to engage with everyday functioning was restricted either owing to the ulcer, the dressing or to a self-imposed isolation in response to the impact of symptoms. Depression and low mood were common and yet, despite this, some studies reported that participants remained hopeful.

Conclusion: Studies suggest that chronic venous leg ulceration negatively affects the quality of life of the patient and that such issues receive inadequate attention during current consultations. If such negative implications are to be effectively addressed, key issues need to be considered during every consultation.

Declaration of interest: This study was funded by West Midlands Strategic Health Authority. The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Keywords: chronic; quality of life; systematic review; venous leg ulceration; wound care.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Exudates and Transudates
  • Humans
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Social Isolation
  • Varicose Ulcer / complications
  • Varicose Ulcer / nursing
  • Varicose Ulcer / psychology*
  • Wound Healing