Your veins work hard everyday, fighting against gravity to return blood to the heart. But with age, weight gain, a sedentary lifestyle, genetic factors, and prolonged sitting and standing, the veins in your legs can expand, making the valves ineffective in preventing backflow. Let’s discuss the different types of venous diseases.
Blood flow in the veins depends on muscle contraction to open the valves so blood can flow forward. When the muscles expand, the valves shut preventing blood from flowing backwards. But when some valves fail to close properly, blood begins to flow backwards – a condition known as reflux.
Types of Venous Diseases
This may in turn cause blood to pool in some veins, resulting in a number of venous diseases with varying symptoms and treatment options. Common vascular diseases include:
1. Varicose Veins and Spider Veins
When blood begins to pool in the main valves, it is redirected to smaller veins that sit closer to the surface of the skin to maintain blood flow. With the increased blood supply, these veins dilate and swell to appear like blue-purple, ropy bulges under the skin – referred to as varicose veins. They usually appear on your legs.
Smaller blood vessels – capillaries – can also be affected, appearing like small red-purple bursts on your thighs, knees, or calves. These are known as spider veins.
Varicose and spider veins are unattractive to look at, but are seldom painful. You may choose to get them removed for aesthetic purposes, or when they begin to cause pain and discomfort.
2. Blood Clots
Expanded veins and damaged valves often cause blood to flow slowly, causing it to pool, stick to the inner walls of the veins, and form clots. The clots in your veins are referred to as venous thromboembolisms, and are usually caused by:
- Any condition that reduces the blood flow rate or thickens blood, like some tumors or congestive heart failure
- Damaged veins due to infection or injury
- Damaged endothelium – vein lining
- Damaged valves inside the vein
- Some hormones, including estrogen due to the use of birth control pills or pregnancy
- Immobility, like due to prolonged bed rest
- Genetic disorders that make your blood clot
- Insufficient blood-thinning proteins (anticoagulant)
- Surgical procedures on your legs and hips
If the clot develops in a vein near the surface of the skin, it is referred to as phlebitis or superficial venous thrombosis.
If the clot forms in a large vein inside the thigh, lower leg, or pelvis, it is referred to as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
If the clot breaks away from the vein wall and reaches your lungs, it is referred to as pulmonary embolism.
3. Chronic Venous Insufficiency
If no intervention is made to correct deep vein thrombosis (DVT), the prolonged blood pooling can cause your legs to swell and experience pain or pressure. This condition is referred to as chronic venous insufficiency.
You should visit a vein specialist immediately before internal fluids begin to leak into your feet and ankle tissues, which may break down your skin and cause it to wear away and darken.
These are the open sores or wounds caused by static blood flow that refuse to heal completely or keep returning. They usually manifest as venous stasis ulcers, which are found deep inside the leg, above the ankle.
When to See a Vein Specialist
Unfortunately, defective veins or venous valves that cause any of these diseases cannot be fixed or replaced. The only fix is removal through minimally invasive procedures, or valve repair for post-thrombotic syndrome.
Please visit the Center for Vein Wellness or schedule a consultation with Dr. Shah to discuss your case and venous disease treatment options.