Vein disease is a progressive circulatory system condition. Fortunately, there are options available to treat the various stages and restore your circulatory health.
At Dallas Vein Institute, interventional radiologist Dr. Dev Batra and his staff are well versed in vein issues, the problems they cause, and the treatments that help resolve them. Here’s what they want you to know about vein disease and what to do if it impacts you.
Your circulatory system delivers oxygenated blood to your body’s tissues and returns deoxygenated blood back to the lungs and heart. Arteries perform the former function, while veins perform the latter.
One issue with the return trip, though, is that the blood has to fight against the pull of gravity. To compensate, the calf muscles contract to force the blood forward, and the veins have a series of one-way valves that snap shut once blood flows through.
If the vein walls weaken, or if the valves become damaged, blood can flow back toward the legs and feet, pooling around the weakened or damaged area.
If the problem isn’t treated, the condition turns chronic, becoming what’s known as chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). It affects about 40% of adults in the United States. While CVI’s manifestations can simply be cosmetic, they may also lead to leg pain, swelling, or skin ulceration that’s slow to heal or won’t heal at all. It also puts you at risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
If not treated, vein disease can progress and become a chronic problem with multiple stages. These include:
As we’ve mentioned, the first stage of vein disease occurs with damaged valves that allow blood that should be going to the heart to pool around the damaged area, impeding normal circulation.
Spider veins are medically known as telangiectasia. These widened venules or reticular veins (small rope-like veins) form in patterns similar to a spider’s web on the skin’s surface, as the increased venous pressure stresses the vein’s wall.
Spider veins can give way to varicose veins as the pressure grows and the larger veins become affected. These large, twisted swellings against the skin’s surface may be mostly an eyesore, or they can produce pain, itchiness, swelling, and an aching heaviness in the legs. They can also lead to deep vein thrombosis, a much more serious condition.
Unlike varicose veins, which affect surface veins, DVT affects veins deep in the tissue. If a clot forms in these veins, it can break free and travel to the lungs, where it may cause a life-threatening pulmonary embolism (PE). As many as 30% of the 900,000 or so Americans who have DVT will die from it within the first month following diagnosis.
If chronic vein disease is not treated, the veins will begin to leak, causing edema (swelling) in the area around the weakened vein. If you press on the skin, you’ll notice an indentation from the fluid buildup.
The next stage of vein disease affects the skin’s appearance over the affected veins. Most commonly, you’ll notice a brown or red discoloration around your lower legs and ankles. The coloration comes from hemosiderin deposits, a breakdown product of the hemoglobin molecule that transports oxygen. You may also see shiny, scaly, or thickened skin, as well as skin scarring.
Venous ulcers are easy to identify — they’re open sores surrounded by discolored or hardened skin. They are usually located on the lower leg or ankle. The base of the ulcer usually appears red. If infected, the ulcer can produce a large amount of pus, and when manipulated, the ulcer oozes venous blood. While the sore is relatively painless, people may experience pain from related edema or infection.
The main problem with ulcers is that they’re slow to heal, which means they may easily become infected, especially for diabetics.
At Dallas Vein Institute, Dr. Batra treats vein disease at the source — malfunctioning veins. Treatments he uses include:
If you’re having any symptoms of vein disease, or you think an examination may be necessary, call Dallas Vein Institute at 972-646-8346 to set up a consultation with Dr. Batra or book online.