Leg ulcer, venous

Symptoms of venous leg ulcer

A venous leg ulcer looks like a hollowed area of broken skin and exposed tissue. If you have a venous leg ulcer, you may also have:

  • swollen ankles filled with fluid that temporarily hold the imprint of your finger when pressed (known as pitting oedema)
  • discolouration and darkening of your skin around the ulcer (known as hyperpigmentation)
  • hardened skin around the ulcer, which may make your leg feel rigid and resemble the shape of an upside-down champagne bottle (known as lipodermatosclerosis)
  • small, smooth areas of white skin, which may have tiny red spots (known as atrophie blanche)

The associated symptoms of a venous leg ulcer are caused by blood not flowing properly through your veins. This is known as venous insufficiency, and can cause:

  • leg pain, which can be continuous or may come and go
  • a heavy feeling in the affected leg
  • aching
  • itching
  • swelling
  • venous eczema (itchy, irritated skin caused by high blood pressure in the veins of your leg)


A venous leg ulcer can be vulnerable to bacterial infection. Symptoms of an infected leg ulcer include:

  • the ulcer growing larger
  • worsening pain
  • fluid leaking from around the ulcer
  • a high temperature of 38ºC (100.4ºF)
  • an unpleasant smell coming from the ulcer

When to seek medical advice

You should always contact your GP if you think you have developed a venous leg ulcer. Venous leg ulcers are unlikely to get better on their own. They require specialist medical treatment.

Last updated: 04 October 2011

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