Veins are one of three sets of vessels that make up the circulatory system. Arteries and lymphatics are the other two. Veins carry oxygen-depleted blood from the tissues and organs back to the lungs and heart to be re-oxygenated. The blood that passes through the veins is passive and moves because of muscle contractions and tiny valves that help push it against gravity. Since it is a low-pressure system, vein disease symptoms may be subtle and require testing by our specialist.
There are two broad categories of vein disease. One is thrombosis or a blood clot and the other is inadequate venous drainage or venous insufficiency. The most common place for thrombosis is in the veins of the legs. The most common causes of these blood clots are prolonged immobility, heredity, birth control pills, pregnancy and cancer.
When blood clots develop in the veins that are just under the surface of the skin, it is called superficial thrombophlebitis. It may appear as a red streak along the length of the affected vein and may be inflamed. The vein may feel warm and be tender and swollen. Superficial thrombophlebitis commonly occurs when varicose veins settle, and as a result of cancer.
Superficial thrombophlebitis is not usually dangerous because it is unlikely that the clot will break up and travel to the lungs. The most common treatments for this are leg elevation, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and moist heat. In most cases, the blood clot does not persist after anticoagulation medication.
Deep vein thrombosis consists of blood clots in the veins that are deep inside the legs. It is more difficult to diagnose because only 50 percent of patients have symptoms. The symptoms may be pain when walking, leg swelling and pressure in the leg.
There are two classes of deep vein thrombosis. The first is called primary and does not have any obvious cause. It is usually caused by heredity. Secondary deep vein thrombosis may be the result of cancer or immobilization after surgery. Deep vein thrombosis is usually diagnosed with ultrasound. It is very efficient for detecting blood clots that are above the knee, which is the most likely place a clot may break up and travel to the lungs.
In venous insufficiency, the flow of blood is not sufficient to reach the heart and the excess blood will pool in the veins in the legs, causing varicose veins. Treatments vary according to the cause. The main cause is heredity, but obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and long periods of standing or sitting are the most common other causes. Hormonal issues such as pregnancy, menopause, puberty and birth control pills may also cause venous insufficiency.
Any kind of vein disease can develop into a serious condition if it is not treated. During a consultation with our specialist at the Advanced Vein and Laser Centre, you may learn if you have problems and how any problems may be treated. If you have swelling, pain that is worse when you stand, aching or itching legs and a change in the color of your skin around your lower legs and ankles, it is important to get a diagnosis and treatment. Our office is located in Libertyville, IL, but we also serve the Chicago, IL and surrounding cities. Contact us today to schedule your appointment to learn more.