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Lower Extremity Ulcers

Vascular September

September marks Vascular Awareness Month, a time to shed light on the importance of our vascular system and raise awareness about various vascular conditions. Understanding arterial and venous wounds is crucial among the many aspects of vascular health. These wounds can have different causes, presentations, and treatments. This blog discusses the differences between common arterial and venous wounds and the treatment options available for each.

Understanding the Basics

Arterial wounds result from impaired blood flow through the arteries, which carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body’s tissues. When arterial blood flow is compromised, the affected tissues receive inadequate oxygen and nutrients, leading to tissue damage and wound formation. Patients will typically have a history of atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, typically affects the lower limbs.

Here are some key characteristics of arterial wounds:

  • They are often deep, well-defined, often round in shape, and painful ulcers.
  • They may have a pale, pink, or necrotic (black) appearance due to tissue ischemia or lack of blood flow.
  • The wound edges may be irregular and punched out.

Treatments to improve blood flow often include surgical revascularization procedures like angioplasty and bypass surgery may be performed. Removing dead tissue and infection control are crucial for arterial wound healing, and sharp debridement is often required.

Venous Wounds:

Venous wounds, on the other hand, are a result of impaired blood flow through the veins, which carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart. When the valves in the veins malfunction or become damaged, blood can pool in the lower extremities, leading to venous insufficiency, venous hypertension and the formation of venous ulcers.

Here are some typical presentation characteristics of venous wounds:

  • They often appear shallow, and irregularly shaped and may be less painful compared to arterial ulcers.
  • Venous wounds often weep and are wetter in general than arterial wounds.
  • The legs typically have a reddish or brownish color due to hemosiderin staining (iron deposits) in the surrounding skin.
  • Edema (swelling) is common and can become a chronic condition.

Compression therapy is the cornerstone of venous wound management. Compression stockings or bandages are used to reduce edema and improve venous return.
Wound dressings: Specialized dressings that promote a moist wound environment and manage exudate are often employed. Keeping the leg elevated can help reduce edema and promote healing.


Vascular Awareness Month reminds us to prioritize our vascular health and understand the nuances of conditions like arterial and venous wounds. Recognizing the differences between these wounds is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Timely intervention and a multidisciplinary approach involving healthcare professionals, wound care specialists, vascular surgeons and physical therapists can significantly improve outcomes for patients with vascular wounds. If you or someone you know is struggling with such wounds, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention for proper evaluation and personalized care. The premiere collagen wound care products by Human BioSciences can be integral to the wound care treatment plan to facilitate increased healing potential.

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