Skip navigation

Oral zinc and leg ulcers

Leg ulcers are a big problem because they are common at about 1-2 per 1000 people, but more common in the elderly. They are often slow to heal, and are disabling for those who have them, reducing mobility, independence and quality of life. A systematic review sought evidence of benefits to healing of oral zinc from randomised trials [1].

The searching strategy was heroic, but found only six small randomised studies. Five were in venous ulcers and one in arterial ulcers. Oral zinc was given at doses of 440-660 mg daily, mainly compared with placebo, and the studies were over periods from four weeks to 14 months. The predominant outcome used was number of ulcers healed.

In four trials of oral zinc compared with placebo over three to ten months, 33/65 (51%) of venous ulcers were healed compared with 33/76 (43%) with placebo (Figure). This was not statistically significant, with a relative benefit of 1.2 (95% confidence interval 0.9 to 1.7).

Figure: Four trials comparing oral zinc with placebo for healing of venous leg ulcers


Clearly there is not a huge amount of information on which to base a judgement. However, it is highly unlikely that any massive benefit of oral zinc for healing of leg ulcers is being missed.


  1. EA Wilkinson, CI Hawke. Does oral zinc aid the healing of chronic leg ulcers? Archives of Dermatology 1998 134: 1556-60.
previous or next story in this issue