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Approach to the differential diagnosis of leg ulcers

Marta J Petersen, MD
Section Editor
Erik Stratman, MD
Deputy Editor
Abena O Ofori, MD


Leg ulcers are an increasing problem worldwide and represent a major healthcare burden. Patients with leg ulcers are managed by clinicians in multiple specialties, including primary care, vascular surgery, plastic surgery, podiatry, wound care, and dermatology.

A leg ulcer is a physical finding that can result from multiple etiologies, rather than a diagnosis (table 1). Thus, determination of the cause is essential for selecting appropriate treatment and determining the need for further evaluation. The most common causes of leg ulcers are venous insufficiency, arterial insufficiency, and neuropathic disease (table 2).

The etiologies and approach to the differential diagnosis of leg ulcers will be reviewed here. Specific etiologies of leg ulcers and wound management are reviewed in detail separately.

(See "Overview and management of lower extremity chronic venous disease".)

(See "Clinical features and diagnosis of lower extremity peripheral artery disease".)

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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Jul 25, 2016.
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