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Symptoms - Venous leg ulcer

A venous leg ulcer is a chronic (long lasting) sore that take more than 2 weeks to heal. They usually develop on the inside of the leg, just above the ankle.

If you have a venous leg ulcer, you may also have:

  • swollen ankles (oedema)
  • thinning or a shrinking of the lower calf with discolouration and darkening of the skin around the ulcer
  • hardened skin around the ulcer, which may make your leg feel hard
  • a heavy feeling in your legs
  • aching or swelling in your legs
  • red, flaky, scaly and itchy skin on your legs (varicose eczema)
  • swollen and enlarged veins on your legs (varicose veins)
  • an unpleasant and foul-smelling discharge from the ulcer

Signs of an infection

A venous leg ulcer can be prone to bacterial infection.

Symptoms of an infected leg ulcer can include:

  • worsening pain
  • a green or unpleasant discharge coming from the ulcer
  • redness and swelling of the skin around the ulcer
  • a high temperature (fever)
  • an unpleasant smell coming from the ulcer

When to seek medical advice

Contact your GP if you think you have developed a venous leg ulcer. They're unlikely to get better on their own. They usually need specialist medical treatment.

You should also contact your GP if you have a venous leg ulcer and have symptoms that suggest it could be infected.

Read about treatment for leg ulcers

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.