Prevalence and aetiology of leg ulcers in Ireland

J F O'Brien, P A Grace, I J Perry, P E Burke
Irish Journal of Medical Science 2000, 169 (2): 110-2

BACKGROUND: The prevalence of leg ulcer disease in Ireland has been poorly documented.

AIMS: This study aimed to investigate the aetiology and prevalence of leg ulcers in one health district.

METHODS: All patients receiving healthcare for an active leg ulcer in the Mid-Western Health Board (MWHB) region of Ireland (population: 317,069) were identified in a defined two-month period. A cross-sectional survey of all healthcare workers providing care to patients with leg ulceration was carried out. Patients with leg ulcers of uncertain cause were invited for follow-up assessment to establish the underlying cause.

RESULTS: There were 389 patients with leg ulcers with a mean (standard deviation [SD]) age of 72.3 (11.1) years. The prevalence was 0.12% but it was 1.03% in patients aged 70 years and over. Women were twice as likely to be affected. Venous disease accounted for 81% of ulcers, and arterial disease for 16.3%, while ulceration due to diabetic neuropathy and rheumatoid vasculitis was unusual.

CONCLUSION: Leg ulcers are an important source of morbidity in our ageing population. Effective treatment programmes could diminish the impact of this debilitating disease on the health service.

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