Advanced Vein Disease
Vein disease is a progressive condition that will not improve on its own if left untreated.
Venous insufficiency – or reflux – that, most often, causes varicose veins, will never cure itself and conservative treatments, such as compression hosiery, leg elevation, etc., only temporarily alleviate the symptoms, but not the underlying disease. Many people who leave their varicose veins untreated will not only continue to experience symptoms of pain, fatigue, heaviness, cramping and swelling of the legs and ankles, but will also run the risk of developing more advanced, problematic complications, such as:
- Hyperpigmentation (Stasis Dermatitis)
- Venous Stasis Ulcers
- Superficial Thrombophlebitis
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Blood pools in varicose veins, eventually leading to an increase in pressure, or venous hypertension, which is not tolerated well by the veins. This elevated pressure allows red blood cells and fluid to leak into the tissues of the leg. The fluid leak causes tissue swelling, and the subsequent breakdown of the red blood cells in the tissues cause chronic inflammation and hyperpigmentation of the skin, known as Stasis Dermatitis. When the skin and the fat under the skin are inflamed for extended periods of time or for years, the tissues can become thickened, woody and firm, a condition known as LipoDermatoSclerosis, or LDS. Both conditions are often irreversible.
Venous Stasis Ulcers
Patients suffering with progressive vein disease may eventually develop venous leg ulcers when left untreated, which are painful and difficult to heal. The ulcers can often show rapid improvement when the backwards flow of blood in the veins is corrected through an endovenous laser ablation , performed as an outpatient procedure in our Kansas City vein clinic.
Superficial Thrombophlebitis (STP)
STP is inflammation of a vein just below the surface of the skin leading to decreased blood flow through the vein, damage of the vein and blood clotting. The features of STP include redness to the skin and a firm, tender, warm vein. Localized leg pain and swelling may occur, as well. Fortunately, STP is usually a benign and short-term condition when diagnosed and treated with NSAIDs, application of warm, moist compresses, continued activity and the wearing of graduated compression stockings.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
DVT, unlike STP, can be associated with significant and serious medical problems. When the valves in the veins fail to work properly (venous reflux), blood pools in the vein, under higher pressure. This high pressure leads to inflammation in the vein. That, combined with the more sluggish flow of blood and a damaged valve surface creates the ideal conditions for a blood clot to form. The clots associated with vein disease may be superficial or deep. DVTs are the most dangerous, having the ability to break off and travel to the lungs, becoming a pulmonary embolism (PE). If the travelling clot is large enough, it can be fatal. Patients who are diagnosed with DVT or PE are put on blood thinner medications, and sometimes require urgent procedures to remove the clot. However, your best bet is to simply treat your vein disease sooner, rather than later, to all together avoid this risk altogether.
DVT is often first noticed as a “pulling” sensation in the calf, and can be quite painful. Symptoms also include associated warmth, redness and swelling, which often extends above the knee. Patients at a higher risk for developing DVT include those over sixty years of age, who are smokers, have recently had surgery, have a prior history of DVT, suffer with blood clotting disorders, take oral contraceptives or hormonal therapy, or have recently undergone prolonged immobility.
Read more on Painful Varicose Veins here.