Venous Skin Ulcer: Care Instructions

Skip Navigation

Your Care Instructions

A venous skin ulcer is a shallow wound that develops when the leg veins do not move blood back to the heart normally.

Your veins have one-way valves that keep blood flowing toward the heart. When the valves are damaged, the blood can back up and pool in the vein. The blood may leak out of the vein into tissue around the vein. The tissue can break down and form an ulcer.

The first sign of a venous skin ulcer is skin that turns dark red or purple over the area where the blood is leaking out of the vein. The skin also may become thick, dry, and itchy. Without treatment, an ulcer may form. The ulcer may be painful. Your leg also may swell and ache. If the ulcer becomes infected, the infection may cause an odor, and pus may drain from the ulcer. The area around the ulcer also may be more tender and red.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Follow your doctor's instructions on how to clean the ulcer and change the bandage.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Lift your legs above the level of your heart as often as possible. For example, lie down and then prop up your legs with pillows.
  • Wear compression stockings or bandages. They help the blood circulate in your legs. And they help prevent blood from pooling in your legs. But there are different types of stockings, and they need to fit right. So your doctor will recommend what you need.
  • After your ulcer has healed, continue to wear compression stockings. Take them off only when you bathe and sleep. Compression helps your blood circulate and helps prevent other ulcers from forming.
  • Walk daily. Walking helps your blood circulation.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the ulcer.
    • Pus draining from the ulcer.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your ulcer is not healing.
  • You have new ulcers.
  • The ulcer starts to bleed, and blood soaks through the bandage. Oozing small amounts of a mix of blood and fluid is normal.
  • You have new bleeding.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter R374 in the search box to learn more about "Venous Skin Ulcer: Care Instructions".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.