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Varicose ulcers

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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Chronic venous leg ulceration is defined as an area of discontinuity of the epidermis, persisting for 4 weeks or more, caused by venous incompetence and associated venous hypertension (1,2)

  • it is the most common form of leg ulcer and accounts for 60 to 80% of lower limb ulceration
  • prevalence is suggested to be around 1-1.5%
    • in the UK, prevalence is estimated to be between 0.1% and 0.3% while in the USA it is approximately 1%
  • more common in women and older persons
  • the condition imposes a heavy burden on the healthcare finances
    • costs of venous leg ulcers are 1% of the total annual healthcare budget in western European countries
    • in the USA, treatment costs for venous ulcers in more than 6 million patients approach $2.5bn (£1.6bn; €1.8bn)

Venous ulcers may be:

  • primary - develop spontaneously as a result of venous hypertension
  • secondary - secondary to an identifiable underlying cause e.g. - venous thrombosis or trauma) (1)


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