Leg ulcer, venous

Preventing a venous leg ulcer

Smoking

Cigarettes contain nicotine, which narrows your veins and arteries and affects your blood circulation, making venous leg ulcers more likely to develop.

If you decide to stop smoking, your GP will be able to refer you to an NHS Stop Smoking Service, which will provide you with dedicated help and advice about the best ways for you to give up.

If you are committed to giving up smoking but do not want to be referred to a stop smoking service, your GP should be able to prescribe you medical treatment to help with any withdrawal symptoms that you may experience after quitting.

Lose weight

If you are obese, then losing weight can help prevent venous leg ulcers because excess weight contributes to high blood pressure, which can damage the veins.

To lose weight do at least 30 minutes of daily exercise, eat smaller portions and have only healthy snacks between meals. A gradual weight loss of around 0.5kg (1.1lbs) a week is usually recommended.

A low-fat, high-fibre diet that includes wholegrains and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day) is recommended.

Alcohol

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can cause high blood pressure, increasing the risk of venous leg ulcers.

The recommended daily levels of alcohol consumption are:

  • three to four units of alcohol for men
  • two to three units for women

A unit of alcohol is equal to about half a pint of normal strength lager, a small glass of wine or a pub measure (25ml) of spirits.

If you are finding it difficult to moderate your alcohol consumption you should talk to your GP, as there is a range of treatments and medication available that can help. See the Health A-Z topic about treating alcohol misuse for more information.

Skin care

Use an emollient (moisturiser) regularly on your legs, particularly if you have had a previous venous leg ulcer. You can use it as often as you like as there are no safety concerns about using it too much. The motion of rubbing the emollient into your skin helps to boost your circulation.

Examine your legs regularly for broken skin, blisters, swelling and redness. Treating minor skin conditions as and when they occur may help to prevent a venous leg ulcer developing.

 

Last updated: 04 October 2011

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