Venous Disease
Dr. Lisa Perez Dr. Lisa Perez

Staying Ahead of Venous Disease

What causes venous disease?
Venous disease is a condition that occurs when the veins do not function normally. As you walk, the calf muscles help pump blood in the veins up to the heart. The veins have one-way valves in them, so that when you are at rest, the valves close and prevent blood from flowing back down into the lower extremities. If the vein walls become weakened or dilated, the valves can become stretched or damaged. Once this happens, blood begins to flow backwards down the veins, causing high pressures to build up in the venous system. This high pressure contributes to even more stretching and dilation of the veins, resulting in a number of symptoms.

What are the signs and symptoms of venous disease?
The symptoms of venous disease can vary widely from patient to patient. Most commonly, patients with venous disease will complain of aching, heaviness and pain in their legs, particularly after standing for long periods of time. Patients also frequently complain of leg cramps, restless legs, itching and burning. If venous disease is long standing, patients may develop chronic venous insufficiency.

What are some risk factors for developing this condition?
Risk factors for venous disease include a family history, pregnancy, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, jobs that require people to spend many hours on their feet, a history of blood clots or injury to the legs.

How does pregnancy contribute to the development of varicose veins?
As the uterus grows, it puts pressure on the large vein on the right side of your body called the Inferior vena cava. This increases the pressure in your leg veins. When you’re pregnant, your blood volume also increases, which adds to the burden on your veins. In addition, as your progesterone levels rise, it causes the blood vessel walls to relax. This can lead to dilation of the veins and damage to the valves, resulting in varicose veins.

How is venous disease treated?
Treatment for venous disease depends on the severity. Treatments may include sclerotherapy, which involves injecting a solution directly into a vein, causing the vein to collapse and close. For larger veins, endovenous laser ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that involves inserting a laser fiber into the vein and heating the vein wall, causing it to collapse. Other treatments include increasing exercise, elevation of the legs and wearing compression stockings.

Are there any ways to prevent venous disease or reduce the risk of developing it?
As mentioned above, venous disease is mainly hereditary. If you are sedentary, becoming more active and exercising regularly can improve your circulation. If you are on your feet all day at work, invest in a good pair of compression stockings that are at least 20-30 mm Hg. You can find these online or at most compounding pharmacies.

When is the best time to have your leg veins treated?
Treating leg veins is best done sooner rather than later. This is because venous disease tends to get progressively worse as you get older. Once the valves are damaged or stretched, the vein can only get worse over time. Be proactive about your circulation and prevent further damage to your legs by having them evaluated with a vascular ultrasound. Fall and winter is a great time to get started on your vein treatments because most vein treatments require the use of a compression stocking for a few days up to a week, depending on the size of the treated vein.