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

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

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

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