Leg Vein Disease
The treatment of leg vein disease is the focus of our Austin vein clinic. Veins are part of the circulatory “plumbing system” of our body and they act to return the de-oxygentated blood back to the heart once it has circulated through the body. The blood needs to get back to the heart so that is can recirculate to the lungs to get oxygen once again. The leg veins therefore work against gravity to carry the de-oxygenated blood from the feet up the the heart.
Healthy veins are able to perform the function of carrying the non-oxygenated blood back to the heart and lungs so that the blood cells can be replenished with oxygen, allowing the refreshed blood to be reenter the circulation once again. Veins do this with the use of one-way valves that help keep blood flowing in the proper direction (i.e. toward the heart and lungs). Diseased veins have dysfunctional valves that are unable to successfully return all of the blood back to the heart effectively. The blood “backs up” in these diseased veins, similar to how water backs up in a clogged plumbing system of pipes. When the blood begin to back up, pressure builds in the vein system, causing the veins to begin to stretch. After months or years of pressure build-up, the veins become enlarged and engorged and become visible at the surface as diseased leg veins. The condition tends to spread or progress over time, as the valve damage spreads from one valve to the next as the pressure builds.
Diseased leg veins can manifest themselves in many different ways. One example is the appearance of unsightly blue bulging veins just beneath the skin or at the skin surface, known by the term varicose veins. These veins are enlarged and often tend to be tortuous, serpentine, or worm-like in appearance. Over 25 million Americans are afflicted with unsightly varicose veins of the leg. Up to 40% of women and 25% of men worldwide develop varicose veins on their legs during their lifetimes.
Another example of how leg vein disease manifests itself is the development of broken capillaries or spider veins within the skin. These are often discolored areas of red, purple, or blue veins within the dermis that tend to very small, about the size of pieces of thread or string. They often occur in groups, clusters, or bunches. They tend to become more numerous and spread as time progresses. These types of veins are often times just a cosmetic concern for individuals, but they can also cause some discomfort as well. People often describe achiness, burning, swelling, tingling, numbness, or focal pain where they see the clusters of leg veins. Hormonal changes in the body throughout the month can often cause onset of symptoms or worsening of symptoms during certain days. Standing position or exercise can also cause the veins to begin to become symptomatic or ache.
Another type of leg vein disease is referred to as reticular veins. These are enlarged dark blue or purple blood vessels that you can see beneath the skin. They are smaller than the typical engorged bulging blue varicose veins, but larger than the thread-sized or spider-web sized spider veins.. They often less pronounced visually and less tortuous than varicose veins, often ranging in size from 1mm to 3mm. They occur more frequently at the joint or bending points of the legs, particularly more common behind the knees and around the ankles. But they can also occur anywhere on the leg.
Leg vein disease can also cause various leg symptoms, which could be mild to severe. The symptoms can include leg pain, symptoms of pressure buildup in the leg, leg swelling, dull achiness in the legs, or leg numbness / tingling. Symptoms are often worse at the end of the day or during periods of prolonged standing or prolonged sitting. Leg elevation or rest often improves the symptoms.
The most severe forms of vein disease can lead to skin damage in the lower legs and ankles. With this more severe form of the disease, the skin of the lower legs becomes discolored with a brown or tan discoloration. The skin also becomes firm and somewhat tender. There can be loss of normal hair in the lower legs. Sometimes the skin can develop a rash or become a pink or red color in lowest portions of the leg or ankle. These skin changes are often associated with some swelling in the lower legs and ankles. The symptoms can occur in one or both of the legs. If these symptoms are left untreated or ignored, the skin can start to break down and form ulcer or wounds. This condition is referred to as venous stasis ulcers.
Risks Factors For Leg Vein Disease
While leg vein disease affects people of all ages, it tends to occur more often in patients possessing certain risk factors, including:
- Increasing age
- Family history of abnormal leg veins
- Pregnancy, especially multiple pregnancies
- Female gender
- Occupations that require excessive standing
- Hormone therapy
- Lack of physical activity
- Excessive sun exposure
- Trauma to the skin, especially repetitive trauma
- Those with history of blood clots or phlebitis
Diagnosing Vein Disease
Our vein doctors can accurately diagnose your vein disease and any associated conditions after a physical examination of the affected area. Additional testing may also be required, such as a venous ultrasound or venous reflux study. These studies allow the physician to obtain an anatomical “road map” of your circulation. This allows for more precise and targeted treatment options. Based on your particular condition, our vein specialist can counsel you on your treatment options available to resolve your veins and improve your vein circulation.
We do offer a free no-obligation consultation with one of our physicians, in which your legs are examined and recommendations are made based on your individual condition.