Difference Between Arterial Ulcers & Venous Ulcers

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  • 0:04 Arterial vs. Venous Ulcers
  • 0:53 Arterial Ulcers
  • 2:08 Venous Ulcers
  • 3:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

There are several differences between arterial and venous ulcers, which are wounds located on the skin throughout the body. Learn about these differences in this lesson.

Arterial vs. Venous Ulcers

Susan is a 69-year-old woman who has a very unhealthy diet, smokes, and is physically inactive. Over the past several months, she has noticed the formation of open wounds, or ulcers, on her legs.

David is a 66-year-old man who also has a very unhealthy diet, smokes, sits down for most of the day, and doesn't like to exercise. David has also noticed ulcers forming on his legs.

One would think that the ulcers on Susan's and David's legs would be caused by the same processes, since they both live very similar lifestyles. The ulcers on their legs are very similar, but they were caused by different physiological changes to their bodies. Susan's ulcers were caused by damage to the veins in her legs, while David's ulcers were caused by damage to the arteries of his legs. This lesson will describe the differences between these two types of ulcers.

Arterial Ulcers

Ulcers are lesions or wounds to a tissue in the body, usually skin or intestinal tissue. One of the main causes of ulcers is poor blood flow to the tissue. Blood provides oxygen and other nutrients to tissue, and this blood and oxygen are required for the health and survival of the tissue. If blood flow is decreased or completely blocked to a tissue, the tissue will not receive enough oxygen and nutrients, and this can result in the death of the tissue and the formation of ulcers.

Arteries are the blood vessels that bring blood away from the heart to all areas of the body. Arterial ulcers are formed due to blockages in the arteries. These blockages are formed by plaque buildup. Plaque in the arteries refers to fat and cholesterol that accumulates in the arteries. This accumulation of fat and cholesterol in the arteries is the result of unhealthy eating, smoking, and being physically inactive. As this plaque continues to accumulate, the arteries become narrower and narrower, decreasing the blood flow through the vessels. This process is called atherosclerosis.

As the arteries get blocked more and more by plaque buildup, the blood flow to skin tissues decreases, eventually causing damage to the skin, leading to ulcer formation. These arterial ulcers usually form on the lower extremities, including the legs and feet.

Venous Ulcers

While arterial ulcers are caused by damage to the arteries, venous ulcers are caused by damage to the veins. Veins are the blood vessels that bring blood from various parts of the body back to the heart. These veins bring blood back to the heart with the help of one-way valves that prevent the blood from flowing backwards. Without these valves, the blood would not be able to flow back into to the heart. If the blood is not able to flow back to the heart, the blood will begin to collect or pool in an area of the body. This pooling usually occurs in the lower extremities, like the legs and feet.

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