You may have heard of varicose veins, but have you heard of venous disease? Venous disease is actually quite common, affecting millions of Americans each year. Some forms of venous disease pose no risk to your health, while others can be much more serious and even life-threatening.
So what exactly is a venous disease, and how do you know if you have one? Read on, and we’ll clue you in.
What is Venous Disease?
Before answering that question, let’s look inside your circulatory system – in notebook form!
1 When your heart beats, it pumps blood through your circulatory system, which is made up of blood vessels.
2 Blood vessels are flexible, hollow tubes that carry blood to every part of your body. Your arteries carry oxygen-rich blood away from your heart, and your veins return oxygen-poor blood to the heart.
3 Veins located close to the surface of your skin are called superficial veins, and veins found in the muscles of the arms and legs are called deep veins.
4 Inside the veins are valves that keep your blood moving in the right direction. These valves respond to your muscles.
5 When your muscles contract, the vein valves open, and the blood moves through the veins. When your muscles relax, the vein valves close, keeping blood from flowing backward, usually from flowing back toward the feet or hands.
6 However, if the valves inside your veins become damaged or weakened, they may not close completely and therefore allow blood to leak backward and pool up.
7 This creates a high-pressure situation in the veins that causes stretching and twisting of the veins, increased swelling, more valve damage, sluggish blood flow, and venous disease.
Venous diseases include:
- Blood clots
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Superficial venous thrombosis or phlebitis
- Chronic venous insufficiency
- Varicose and spider veins
What Causes Venous Insufficiency?
Damaged leaky valves and blood clots can both lead to the same thing, venous insufficiency. Anytime forward flow through the veins meets an obstruction, blood builds up and can lead to venous insufficiency. In some cases, it isn’t a clot or valve problem that causes venous insufficiency. The underlying cause can be weakened leg muscles that can no longer squeeze blood forward.
What Does Venous Disease Look Like?
The most apparent indicator of venous disease is bulging, twisting varicose veins that pop up under the surface of your skin. However, visible varicose veins are not necessary for venous disease to be present.
Here are a few of the red flags of venous disease
1 Spider veins
Spider veins are usually a cosmetic issue, but when combined with varicose veins and leg swelling, they may be a warning sign of underlying vein disease.
2 Discomfort or pain in your legs
Many people with venous disease experience pain, cramping, and discomfort in their legs. The discomfort is often worse after standing or sitting for long periods of time.
3 Skin changes on your legs and ankles
Venous disease can cause damage to the surrounding skin like itching, scaling, discoloration, and even open sores. If vein problems go untreated, stasis dermatitis or stasis eczema can develop.
4 Swollen legs
Swelling in the legs – or edema – can result from blood pooling in your legs and ankles. The pooling can get worse if you’re up on your feet.
5 Restless legs
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a condition that causes a tingling or prickling sensation as well as an uncontrollable urge to move the legs, usually when you’re trying to sleep.
Venous Disease Symptoms
If you have any of the following venous disease symptoms, it’s a good idea to consult with a vein specialist and get vein treatment if necessary.
- Tight feeling in your calves or itchy, painful legs
- Swollen legs or ankles
- Pain when you walk that goes away when you rest
- Varicose veins
- Leg ulcers that are hard to treat
- Brown-colored skin, often near the ankles
- An uncomfortable feeling in your legs
- An unexplainable urge to move your legs (restless legs syndrome)
- Muscle spasms or painful leg cramps
How Serious is Venous Disease?
In some cases, venous disease can become crippling. If you suspect that you may have venous disease, again consult with a vein specialist. They can get an inside view of your veins using a sonogram to rule out vein problems.
If they do find signs of venous disease, they can then talk with you about minimally invasive vein removal treatments that can take care of any problem veins – because untreated varicose veins could lead to worse conditions.
Is What I Eat Important?
Patients often ask us if there are foods that improve circulation. The answer is – what you eat is important for your overall wellbeing, including your vein health. Eating foods that enhance blood circulation and vein health can decrease the chances of getting varicose veins.
For instance, think about fiber. Fiber helps prevent constipation, which can increase pressure on your veins and contribute to the development of varicose veins. Insoluble fiber also helps reduce cholesterol levels, so eating foods rich in fiber like carrots, oats, apples, flaxseed, berries, and barley, is good for vein health.
In addition, bioflavonoids count – these are what give food extremely vibrant colors. The more colorful your food choices, the better your vein health. Adding dark leafy greens and red and yellow foods to your meals is an excellent place to start with bioflavonoids.
Vitamin C can improve circulation, strengthen vein walls and reduce inflammation, so grab some citrus fruits, berries, and peppers the next time you’re at the store.
Garlic is a natural blood thinner that has been used medicinally for centuries. It’s proven to keep a constant flow of blood through veins and increase blood circulation.
Raw nuts and seeds are rich in niacin and vitamin B3, which are essential for blood flow and preventing circulation problems. Some nuts and seeds are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber and contain anti-inflammatory proteins that help remove cholesterol and improve blood flow quality.
We Can Help You Avoid Venous Disease!
Are you concerned about your vein health? Contact us for a consultation today!