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Prevention - Venous leg ulcer

People most at risk of developing a venous leg ulcer are those who have previously had a leg ulcer.

You can help reduce your risk of developing a venous leg ulcer by:

  • wearing a compression stocking
  • losing weight
  • taking care of your skin

Compression stockings

After an ulcer has healed your GP will usually recommend compression stockings:

  • to prevent or reduce the risk of the ulcer recurring
  • if you had a venous leg ulcer before
  • if you're at risk of developing a venous leg ulcer

These stockings are specially designed to squeeze your legs, improving your circulation.

They're usually tightest at the ankle and less tight further up your leg. This encourages blood to flow upwards towards your heart.

To be most effective, these stockings should be put on as soon as you get up and only taken off at night when you go to bed.

Compression stockings are available in different sizes, colours, styles and pressures. It is important that you get properly fitted for your stocking. If you have very scarred legs from your ulcers you can get special custom made stockings.

A nurse can help you find a stocking that fits correctly and you can manage yourself. There are various accessories you can buy to help get the stockings on and off.

Losing weight

If you're overweight or obese, losing weight can help treat and prevent venous leg ulcers.

Excess weight leads to high pressure in the veins in your legs which can damage your skin.

Venous ulcers are much more common among people who are overweight.

Exercise regularly and eat a healthy, balanced diet to help you lose weight.

You should also avoid sitting or standing for long periods. Elevating your legs whenever possible can also help.

Read information about healthy eating and active living

Treating underlying problems

Treating severe varicose veins may help prevent leg swelling or ulcers.

This may involve a procedure where a thin, flexible tube called a catheter is inserted into the affected veins. High-frequency radio waves or lasers are then used to seal them.

You may need surgery to repair the damage to your leg veins or remove the affected veins altogether.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Page last reviewed: 23 March 2021
Next review due: 23 March 2024

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.