As the heart beats, it pumps blood through your blood vessels. These vessels are flexible, hollow tubes that carry blood throughout your body.
Veins are vessels that have flaps inside called valves. These valves open and close with your heart beat. When your heart muscles contract, the valves open and push blood through. When your muscles relax, the valves close. This process keeps your blood flowing in one direction.
Veins return used, deoxygenated blood to the heart through small one-way valves. If the valves inside your veins become damaged as a result of venous disease, the valves may not close completely. This allows blood to leak backward or flow in both directions. Your heart has to work harder.
Venous diseases include:
- Blood clots.
- Deep vein thrombosis.
- Chronic venous insufficiency.
- Superficial venous thrombosis or phlebitis.
- Vascular Malformations (abnormally shaped arteries, veins, capillaries, lymphatics, or combinations of these blood vessels).
What happens once you have venous disease?
When blood doesn't flow well through the veins due to weak valves, blood flow slows down, where it can settle in the legs.
Common symptoms with the legs can include:
- Infections of the skin (cellulitis).
- Pain, swelling, tiredness, itchiness, numbness, restlessness.
- Spider and/or varicose veins of the legs, groin, or private areas.
What causes venous disease?
A blood clot in a deep vein in your leg (called deep vein thrombosis) can damage a valve. Sitting or standing for long periods of time can also raise your veins' pressure and weaken the valves.
Your chances of developing venous disease are higher if you are:
- A woman.
- A smoker.
- Over age 50.
- Someone with a history of blood clots.
- Have a family history of venous disease.
- Are pregnant or have been pregnant more than once.
What types of tests are used to diagnose venous disease?
Your doctor will ask you about your medical history. They may check the blood flow in your legs with a test called a vascular or duplex ultrasound. During this ultrasound, they will place a small device on your skin over the vein. Using sound waves, they can see the speed and direction of your blood flow.
Sometimes, you may need X-rays or specific scans to check for other causes of your leg swelling. For example, a CT venogram is a type of scanner that can detect blood flow and clots in the deep veins of your legs.
What types of treatments and procedures are used to treat venous disease?
There are many medical and surgical treatment options available for venous diseases.
- Anticoagulation: These are blood-thinning medications that prevent blood clots.
- Angioplasty: In this procedure, a small balloon at the tip of a catheter is inflated to open a narrowed vein and increase blood flow.
- Catheter-directed thrombolytic therapy: Clot-dissolving medications, called thrombolytics, are delivered through the vein to the blood clot.
- Percutaneous vena cava filters: Vena cava filters can be used for patients who cannot take anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medications.
- Sclerotherapy: A concentrated salt solution is injected into varicose veins, so they collapse and disappear.
- Venous ablation: Endovenous thermal ablation, also called laser therapy, uses a laser or radio waves through a catheter to close up the targeted vein.
- Ligation and stripping: Dilated veins are removed or tied off through small cuts in the skin.
- Surgical bypass: This surgery creates a new pathway for blood to flow by using a graft to reroute around a blocked blood vessel.
- SEPS (subfascial endoscopic perforator surgery): This surgery dissects damaged veins to heal ulcers.
What can I do to support my health when I have venous disease?
There are plenty of ways to minimize the impact of the valvular damage and even become symptom-free.
- Anti-inflammatory diet: Certain foods are known to be inflammatory and interfere with optimal circulation. Foods to avoid include meat, dairy, processed food, and fried food. Instead, focus on eating naturally derived, whole foods prepared at home—the more colorful the plate, the better.
- Compression socks/stockings: Compression socks help reverse symptoms like leg heaviness, achiness, fatigue, and swelling.
- Exercise: When you move, your blood does too. Try to do 30 minutes of continuous, low-impact exercise every day. Also, take breaks from sitting or standing for long amounts of time with short two-minute walks.
- Elevation: When you elevate your legs, gravity will bring blood back toward your heart. Your legs may feel less swollen.
- Proper skincare: Skin irritation, or dermatitis, can be reversed with heavy creams like coconut oil. Try not be use harsh chemicals and rub your skin throughout the day.
- Water: Drink enough water to make it easier for your blood to flow.
Why choose Presbyterian for venous disease treatment?
Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Care has a skilled vascular care team who can provide a wide range of services from diagnosis to treatment. Their surgeons are trained in many different techniques and procedures, many of which can provide you with a shorter recovery period and less hospital time.