What is Venous Insufficiency?
The veins are the blood vessels of the body that return blood from the arms, legs, and organs back to the heart. Normal circulation allows the arteries to carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. In turn, your veins then carry your blood back to your heart. There are valves within the veins in your legs which are designed to prevent backflow of your blood. When these valves become impaired or when the forward flow of the blood through your veins is otherwise impaired, this condition is known as Venous Insufficiency.
What are the causes of venous insufficiency?
Varicose Veins: Varicose veins are not only unsightly, the veins which cause them have either damaged valves or no valves. This prevents the blood from traveling to your heart successfully causing the blood to build up in your legs.
Blood Clots: Also known as deep vein thrombosis, blood clots can create blockage in your veins and prevent the proper forward flow of blood which can cause the blood to spill over around the valves.
Personal Characteristics: There are numerous factors that can contribute to the likelihood of developing venous insufficiency including obesity, height (the taller you are the greater the risk), inactivity/sedentary lifestyle, and pregnancy. Genetics and gender also contribute to your risk; the risk of developing venous insufficiency is greater if you are female. Your risks also increase with age.
What are the symptoms of venous insufficiency?
In addition to the pain and discomfort associated with venous insufficiency, symptoms of venous insufficiency also include:
- Edema (swelling): As blood collects in your veins, swelling can occur. This occurs most prominently around the feet and ankles. Depending on the severity of the swelling, wearing shows can become uncomfortable or impossible.
- Tingling: As blood pools in an area, this can cause a tingling sensation such as one would experience when a limb “falls asleep”. With venous insufficiency, this tingling may be accompanied with an itching sensation.
- Cramping: The lack of proper leg circulation can cause your legs to “seize up” and cramp.
- Skin discoloration: Eventually, persistent interruption of the flow of blood in your legs could lead to discoloration this being due to the lack of nutrients in your skin.
- Skin Ulcers: Skin ulcers can be caused with prolonged, severe venous insufficiency. The ulcer(s) can appear as sore-like lesions on your skin. If left untreated, an ulcer can become an open wound.
- Prominent varicose veins or ropy veins
- Leg weakness: As mentioned, immobility can also affect the muscles and veins of the legs as can medication. Patients with the above signs / symptoms should consider these prior to traveling or having surgery.
Spider veins consist of a network of small, colored veins appearing close to the surface of the skin. Typically caused by a backup of blood, spider veins can also occur due to injury, exposure to the sun, or changes in hormone levels; pregnancy can also be a contributing factor in the development of spider veins. Spider veins often form web-like shapes beneath the surface of the skin and are red, blue, or purple appearing. Spider veins and varicose veins are related as both are swollen blood vessels which are visible through the skin with spider veins appearing closer to the surface of the skin and varicose veins being much larger, raised veins. Both most often appear in the lower extremities due to increased pressure on these veins. Obese people and those with occupations requiring long periods of sitting or standing are most susceptible to the development of varicose veins and spider veins.
TREATMENT: The most common treatment to remove spider veins is called Sclerotherapy.
How is venous insufficiency treated?
Compression Hose: Prescription compression stockings or hose are elastic and will coax circulation in your veins by applying pressure at your ankle and lower leg to stimulate blood flow. Dr. Hemstreet will prescribe these compression hose which will also hopefully help to relieve any swelling or pain you are experiencing.
Elevation: Dr. Hemstreet may also advise you to elevate your legs to further help with your symptoms of swelling caused by the venous insufficiency
Exercise: He may suggest you exercise and keep your legs moving as exercise can also improve your circulation.
Weight Loss: This can be helpful in the treatment of venous insufficiency for patients who are overweight.
Radiofrequency Ablation: Dr. Hemstreet may schedule you for a Radiofrequency Ablation procedure. This is a minimally invasive procedure that uses radiofrequency energy (electricity) to heat, collapse and seal off the targeted blood vessels.
Laser Ablation: Minimally invasive ultrasound-guided technique used for treating varicose veins using laser energy inserted into the vein to be treated. The laser light shines into the interior of the diseased vein.
Phlebectomy: Minimally invasive (nonsurgical) procedure to remove varicose veins on the surface of the leg. A small scalpel or needle is used make very small incisions near the varicose vein. A small phlebectomy hook is then used to remove the veins.
Sclerotherapy: A modality of treatment for spider veins that involves injecting a solution called sclerosant into the veins that will eventually cause the veins to close, making them disappear.