Veins contain valves and venous disease results from damage to vein valves.
Venus Reflux Disease (also known as Chronic Venous Insufficiency) occurs when faulty valves allow the blood in the veins to flow backwards and pool in the lower half of the body. The increased pressure from the pooled blood leads to veins becoming elongated, dilated, and gnarled (or varicose). In turn, these veins fail, leading to greater compromise of proper blood flow back to the heart. Under the force of gravity, the increasing pool of uncirculating venous blood leads to venous hypertension.
Venous hypertension may result in inflammation and congestion in the tissue of the legs, and is responsible for the symptoms of venous insufficiency, which can include edema, pain, skin discoloration, leg cramping, leg fatigue, and restlessness. Vein problems increase with age, can progress to the point of being disabling, and should not be ignored. Most insurance companies cover treatment of venous disease.
Common problems of the veins include:
Varicose veins are stretched, swollen veins that become that way because the
valves do not close completely, and a significant amount of blood pools behind the valves. As the amount of pooled blood increases, the walls of the veins weaken. The dilation or ballooning of the veins can occur anywhere from the ankle to the groin. In addition to being unattractive, the resulting condition can be painful.
Varicose veins often cause discomfort and look unattractive. Left untreated, varicose veins usually enlarge and worsen over time. They can cause the legs and feet to swell. Leg muscles may feel fatigued or throb and cramp at night. The skin at or around the spider veins or varicose veins can itch or burn, and can occasionally lead to more serious problems.
Spider veins are the least serious of the most common vein disorders. Spider veins are essentially smaller versions of varicose veins and are caused by blood pooling in the veins because the valves are not closing completely. Spider veins commonly appear as as small red or purple cluster of veins that are near the skin’s surface. Depending on how large or dark they are, they may appear unattractive but generally do not cause much discomfort. The cause of spider veins is uncertain, but factors that weaken vein valves include aging, obesity, leg injury, and prolonged standing. Spider veins on the face of a fair-skinned person can occur from exposure to the sun.
Venous Stasis Disease
Venous stasis disease occurs when incompetent valves cause blood to pool in the legs. Most chronic venous stasis disease results from lack of treatment or neglect of varicose veins, as well as deep vein thrombosis and/or phlebitis, which causes scarring of the, making them incapable of closing properly. Because valves are damaged, venous blood pools in the lower third of the leg, which results in very high venous pressure in the ankle. Eventually, this high venous pressure may cause a venous ulcer through the skin.
Thrombophlebitis is an inflammation of the walls of a vein, which often results from a clot in the vein. The clot block the flow of blood partially, or completely. Thrombophlebitis can be caused by injury, stagnation of blood due to another disease, or an increased tendency of blood clotting. Sluggish blood flow increases the risk of developing problems as blood that flows at a normal rate is less likely to clot. Thrombophlebitis is more likely to occur in people who have had surgery, have just given birth, or who have a chronic illness requiring bed rest and inactivity. It is also more common in older people.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a disorder characterized by an uncontrollable urge to move the legs. Symptoms of RLS include itchy, burning and tingling sensations. It is worse at night when lying down and is relieved by movement or walking. RLS can cause trouble falling asleep, and/or repeated awakenings. This disorder is most common in middle and older age groups and affects 10-15% of the US population. There are numerous causes for RLS such as intake of stimulants (including caffeine), side effects of some medications (i.e. beta blockers and antidepressants), alcohol, pregnancy, drug withdrawal, anemia, and chronic liver or kidney failure. RLS is believed to be associated with a number of factors, including iron deficiency, peripheral neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological disorders. In addition, a recent study performed by professors at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School found that men who were diagnosed with RLS were approximately 40% more likely to die prematurely compared to men without the condition.
There is a great overlap in the symptoms of vein disease and RLS. Chronic venous insufficiency and varicose veins can cause symptoms of RLS.
Recent medical research reported in the journal Dermatologic Surgery, showed that 22% of patients with RLS also have venous insufficiency. Studies show that the treatment of venous insufficiency can relieve symptoms of RLS. According to a study in the journal Phlebology, in patients with RLS and venous insufficiency, 98% of patients experienced relief from RLS symptoms by treating their venous insufficiency, and 80% had long-term relief.
Who Suffers From Vein Disease?
Venous disease can affect anyone, but some people are more susceptible to certain types of venous disease. For example, women are more likely than men to have spider or varicose veins. However, with age, both genders have an increased likelihood of developing varicose veins, and by the age of 55, about half of all men and women have developed some degree of vein disease. Varicose veins also have a tendency to run in families. Other risk factors for varicose veins include age, obesity, pregnancy (pregnant women are more likely to develop spider and/or varicose veins) and extreme height. People with jobs that require them to stand for long periods often develop varicose veins as well.
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