*This video contains graphic images of leg ulcers
Leg ulcers are a horrible condition that can not only cause pain and suffering to the person with the condition but also affects everybody around them. Patients with leg ulcers often have to give up work, become housebound and can change from independent people to patients requiring constant help and assistance from family, friends, carers and healthcare professionals.
With an ageing population, the number of people with leg ulcers is set to increase if nothing changes.
What is absolutely amazing, as I discussed in a previous post here, is that at least half the patients with leg ulcers could be cured if only they were referred for proper assessment and treatment.
Last summer, research which was undertaken within my clinic was published showing that we can cure the majority of patients with leg ulcers with simple local anaesthetic procedures, less expensively than long-term compression dressings and nursing care.
In July 2013, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) produced guidelines about varicose veins that even recommended that patients with leg ulcers that had not healed after two weeks should all be referred to a specialist vascular unit for assessment.
So why isn't this happening?
Without doubt, leg ulcers are not sexy. As such many doctors do not treat them themselves and instead defer them to nursing staff to carry out the treatment.
Nurses are, of course, the caring profession and strive to provide the best possible care for their patients. However, I was very surprised to find that when a daily newspaper showed interest in publishing our research that the majority of leg ulcers can actually be cured, the article was pulled from publication following concerns from the nursing led "leg ulcer forum".
As such, most patients with leg ulcers are kept in the dark that there might be a cure for them, if only they were referred to a specialist vascular unit. In the UK this is not an NHS vs. Private Healthcare argument - the investigations and techniques needed to cure these ulcers are available in both sectors. The problem is whether the professionals in charge of the patient with leg ulcers know that there are cures available and advise the patient and help them to seek further investigation.
I have a great many patients whose lives have been changed from one of dependency and being house-bound to being active and able to enjoy family or social life outside of the home once again.
It is because I want to help other patients to follow this path that I have helped set up The Leg Ulcer Charity. The aims of this charity are clear - to help educate patients, their families and carers and any health professional who wants to learn in the new ways that leg ulcers can be cured in the majority of patients.
The charity also funds research and is currently funding a Ph.D. student through the University of Surrey who is measuring the social effects of leg ulcers on patients and their close circle of family and friends.
It is our hope that the Leg Ulcer Charity will grow to be instrumental in helping everyone understand that patients suffering from this horrible condition should not be left to suffer and instead should be helped to find a cure to get them back on their feet and get back to a fully active life.