Do I Have Venous Disease?
How to determine if I have vein disease?
Even a mild case of vein disease can affect your overall health. Because your blood flow is less efficient than before, it’s harder for blood to be re-oxygenated and re-circulated. Cells throughout your body may not receive the oxygen and nourishment they need. As a result, vein disease can rob you of the energy you need for everyday activities. So, if you’ve been wondering why your legs hurt or your ankles swell, or you just don’t seem to have any get-up-and-go lately, vein disease may be the reason.
It may be easy to see if a person has varicose veins, but it is not so simple to determine the state of the underlying deep venous system. This is important in terms of management and treatment.
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Chronic Venous Insufficiency
Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) is defined as an inability to pump venous blood back toward the heart. This usually indicates major defects in the deep veins. With CVI, the vein walls can become permeable, allowing blood to pool in surrounding leg tissue, which can cause skin discoloration, open sores called ulcers, and blood clots. A clot may cause immediate swelling of the leg because the major mechanism to transport blood out of the leg is blocked. When the clot is at least partially resolved, more normal blood flow is restored, and the swelling subsides, but the damage may have been done. Where there was a clot, the valves in the deep veins may have been destroyed. If so, blood will accumulate in the deep veins, increasing pressure at each lower level. Veins may be damaged from the original thrombophlebitis or from the constant exposure of the perforator veins to the high pressure in the deep veins. That affects the superficial veins, and it also allows venous blood to accumulate under high pressure in the outer tissues of the leg.
What are the warning signs of vein disease?
Tired, heavy-feeling legs
One of the first signs of vein disease is your legs feeling chronically tired and heavy in the evenings. This is a clear indication that the return flow of blood from the legs to the heart is impaired. The main cause is gravity. After a long day of standing on your feet, your weakened veins are less able to carry the blood back up to your heart efficiently. The result is oxygen depletion in your legs, giving you that heavy, tired feeling.
Leg pain from prolonged sitting or standing.
The muscles in your legs play an important role in massaging the veins and helping them “pump” blood. During long periods of sitting or standing, when the muscles are at rest, blood may collect in the legs and ankles. The leg veins stretch easily and may become enlarged by the pressure of the pooled blood. This in turn can cause dull, aching pain.
Swollen ankles at night
Thick, swollen ankles are definite signs that blood or other fluid is congested in the leg and/or leg veins. Over time, damaged vein walls can become even more stretched out and permeable, allowing fluid and protein to filter from the veins into surrounding leg tissue, which causes the swelling. When you lie down at night, the pressure from gravity is equalized across your leg.
Varicose or spider veins, especially during or after pregnancy
One of the main factors contributing to vein disease is pregnancy. During pregnancy, the amount of blood greatly increases throughout the body to almost double the normal volume, stretching leg veins far beyond their normal capacity. Even though the visible signs of varicose veins may disappear after giving birth, the damage done to veins during pregnancy is permanent and may cause pain and discomfort later in life. These problems can be avoided if compression therapy is prescribed during pregnancy. Women with a history of vein disease in their family or who experience swelling, pain, or varicosities in their legs during pregnancy are strongly urged to talk to their doctors about medical compression therapy.
Tingling, numbness, burning, or cramping in legs and feet
Since vein disease can cause serious circulation problems, your lower legs and feet may not be getting the oxygen they need. In essence, they may be “falling asleep” more often than usual, or suffering from muscle cramps.
Discoloration of the skin
Over time, leakage of blood into the area surrounding the veins can cause tissue to die. The resulting pooling of blood in the tissue causes a darkening of the skin. It is at this stage that the skin is actually stained by your own blood.
Open sores or ulcers on the lower leg
When Chronic Venous Insufficiency reaches its most serious point, ulcers may appear on the lower leg. These are the result of blood leaking into the leg tissue and damaging the skin. These open sores are often very difficult to heal, but many physicians will prescribe the mediven® dual layer stocking system or the circaid® juxtalite® lower leg system as part of the treatment. Once the ulcer heals, the patient should wear mediven® medical compression stockings, such as mediven® plus, to prevent recurrence of the ulcer.
History of vein problems in the family
There are many causes of vein disease, but the main one is heredity – the condition runs in families. If someone in your family suffers from serious vein problems, you are at a higher than average risk. The earlier you take precautions and treat the problem, the better chance you have of avoiding serious complications.
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