Vein disease – the technical medical term is venous disease – is a catch-all term. It may refer to a variety of different problems. The key is that all the problems occur in the venous system. The conditions may be minor or primarily cosmetic issues or can actually be life-threatening. Here are the basics about vein disease from Dr. Gamal Wazni, of United Vein Centers in Tampa, Florida.
Vein Disease – Varicose Veins
To some extent, varicose veins and vein valve failure mean the same thing. The valves are tiny flaps of tissue inside the veins meant to prevent blood from flowing backwards. Unlike arteries, which have plenty of force behind the blood flow, veins rely on muscle contractions in the legs to pump blood back up to the heart. Each time the heart beats, there is a slight pause in which only the valves keep blood from going back down due to gravity. The valves can wear out over time, which leads to blood pooling in the veins and distending them into what we call varicose veins.
Vein Disease: Phlebitis
Phlebitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the vein wall. It might occur from a foreign body like an intravenous catheter or from venous insufficiency (inadequate return of blood from the veins). In the legs, phlebitis can cause blood clots in the big veins of the pelvis and thigh. These clots can break loose and travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolus, which can be life-threatening. Phlebitis doesn’t always cause blood clots, however.
What Causes Vein Disease?
Increasing age is one of the most common reasons for vein disease. Pregnancy increases a woman’s risk of varicose veins, and women are more likely to have problems like varicose veins than men, and to develop them at a younger age – in their 40s as compared to the 70s for men. Genetics can increase the risk of vein problems, especially varicose veins, which often run in families. People who smoke or are obese or inactive have a higher risk of vein disease. Spending long hours on your feet may also increase the risk of vein disease, especially if you are standing in one place rather than walking.
Symptoms of Vein Disease
One of the first signs and most common symptoms of vein disease is swelling in the legs and feet. Varicose veins, especially large veins in the legs, often become distended and tortuous and are clearly visible under the skin. Spider veins are also visible but tend to look like “starbursts” of dark red, purple, blue or black. Most patients don’t have pain, but if they do, it is typically worse when standing and better when sitting down with the legs elevated. Other symptoms include throbbing, itching or aching in the legs.
Dr. Wazni can help you if you have any of these problems. We offer a variety of in-office procedures for vein disease. Please contact our office if you have questions or want to schedule an appointment.