- What is Vein Disease?
- 12 Common Symptoms of Vein Disease
- What Causes Vein Disease?
- How To Diagnose Vein Disease?
- How To Treat Vein Disease
- Complications of Venous Disease
What is Vein Disease?
Vein disease develops when our blood vessels become weakened or damaged and cannot transport blood efficiently.
Our hearts work together with our veins and arteries to smoothly move blood from our heart to the rest of our body. As the blood travels back to our heart, special one-way valves push blood forward, preventing blood flow to move backward (known as reflux).
When vein disease develops, our damaged veins or weakened valves, allow a backflow of blood that begins to pool in our lower legs, a condition known as chronic venous insufficiency.
12 Common Symptoms of Vein Disease
Below is a list of the top 12 warning signs of potential vein disease:
- Painful or aching legs
- Burning or itching skin
- Leg or ankle swelling
- Heavy feeling or tiredness in the legs
- Skin discoloration or changes in the skin’s texture
- Restless leg syndrome
- Open wounds or leg ulcers
- Aching legs after prolonged periods of sitting or standing
- Family history of vein disease
- Lifestyle changes have little to no relief in symptoms
If any of the above apply to you, you must speak with a healthcare provider to determine whether you may have chronic venous insufficiency.
What Causes Vein Disease?
When a blood clot is present, the blood clot obstructs the flow of blood, causing blood to build up within the vein below the clot. The increased blood volume and pressure weakens and damages the vein.
Symptoms of a Blood Clot:
- Redness and warmth to the touch
- Pain that worsens when bending the foot
- Skin discoloration
In the case of varicose veins, the one-way valves have been damaged or missing entirely. As a result, there is a backflow of blood pooling into the lower limbs, further weakening and stretching the leg veins.
Varicose veins often appear as thickened, twisted, rope-like blood vessels that protrude above the surface of the skin.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins:
Symptoms of varicose veins in the legs include:
- Aching and tenderness
- Heaviness and fatigue
- Leg Swelling
- Leg Pain
- Skin changes and discoloration
- Itching or redness
Risk Factors for Vein Disease
Several risk factors increase the odds of developing venous insufficiency. For instance, varicose veins are more common in women than men, especially during times of pregnancy.
Educating yourself and knowing your risk is an essential step to identifying vein disease in the early stages.
- Family history of vein or heart disease
- Blood clots
- Varicose veins
- Prior stroke
- Leg injury
- Sitting or standing for long periods
- Heavy lifting
- Muscle weakness
How To Diagnose Vein Disease?
Diagnosing venous insufficiency is painless and minimally invasive. A healthcare provider will speak with you about your medical and family history, including your current symptoms and lifestyle.
Additionally, a physical examination will be performed to see if signs of vein disease are present.
Helpful Tools to Diagnose Vein Disease
There are several medical tools available that can easily and quickly diagnose a case of vein disease.
The use of ultrasound will allow your doctor to get a visual image of how your leg veins are functioning and where a potential problem may be located.
Additional Imaging Tests:
To get a more robust and more in-depth understanding of the venous system, your doctor may order a Venogram or Duplex Ultrasound.
A venogram uses x-ray technology to show how blood flows through the veins. A contrast material is delivered through an IV, which will make the veins appear opaque in the imaging. Your doctor will be able to see the presence of a blood clot, and to review the health and structure of the veins.
A duplex ultrasound allows your doctor to evaluate the speed and direction of your blood flow through your veins and arteries.
How To Treat Vein Disease
The development of venous insufficiency can be related to a person’s lifestyle. Knowing your risk factors and making small adjustments can help prevent the onset of vein disease.
Keep in mind, vein disease is common, and many medical advancements have been made to treat the condition and symptoms.
Lifestyle Changes and Conservative Therapies
There are some lifestyle changes you can make to help improve your health and minimize or slow the progression of venous disorders:
- Maintain a healthy weight and diet
- Exercise Regulatory
- Quit smoking
- Elevate your legs to help restore blood flow
- Use compression stockings (help to reduce venous reflux)
- Get up to move and often stretch if your job requires prolonged sitting or standing
Certain medications may be prescribed to help improve blood flow:
- Diuretics – work to remove excess fluid from the body
- Pentoxifylline – reduces inflammation and improves blood flow)
- Blood thinners (anticoagulants) – prevent blood clots
Medical Treatments Available for Chronic Venous Disease
Should lifestyle and conservative therapies not be sufficient, or you are experiencing a worsening of symptoms, speak with a healthcare practitioner about treatment options. Thanks to advanced technology, there are several treatments available that are minimally invasive, safe, and successful.
Radio-Frequency Ablation (RFA)
A thin tube or catheter is inserted directly into the diseased vein. Once inserted, the surgeon will deliver radiofrequency energy to heat, shrink, and close off the vein. Similar to endovenous laser ablation, blood flow is naturally restored to nearby healthy veins, and the diseased vein is absorbed by the body.
VenaSeal Closure System
VenaSeal is an advanced medical adhesive that is inserted into the vein to close off a diseased vein segment safely.
Sclerotherapy involves injecting a solution directly into the diseased vein. The solution will cause the vein walls to collapse, closing off the vein. As a result, blood flow is redirected to nearby healthy veins, restoring circulation. The collapsed vein is then reabsorbed by surrounding tissue.
Sclerotherapy is typically sued for small to medium-size varicose veins.
Endovenous Laser Ablation
A thin tube or catheter is directly inserted into the diseased vein. Once inserted, the surgeon will deliver high heat directly into the vein, causing the vein wall to collapse and close off. Blood flow is naturally redirected to healthy, nearby veins.
Spider Vein Laser Treatment
Typically performed on small spider veins, laser surgery involves targeting a laser beam directly at the spider veins without harming the skin.
Side effects include minimal bruising, redness, and potential blistering.
More commonly used for larger varicose veins, ambulatory phlebectomy is performed by making a series of small punctures in the skin and then removing the varicose vein.
Local anesthesia is used for this treatment.
Complications of Venous Disease
When left untreated, vein disease can lead to serious health complications:
- Leg ulcers and open sores
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
- Pulmonary Embolism