Fun Fact: The adult human body has approximately 60,000 miles of blood vessels — more than twice the distance around the world. Still, it’s easy to go through life without thinking twice. But you shouldn’t ignore the subtle and less subtle signs of venous disease, which can affect your life if left untreated. “Venous disease in general is very common”, says the Cleveland Clinic. Varicose veins affect about a third of adults. One in 50 adults with varicose veins develops chronic venous insufficiency, which typically affects people over 50. And the risk increases with age.
“When people have a blood clot in their legs, it can damage their valves and they can have long-term symptoms, due to the damaged valves, pressure building up in their legs,” says Dr. Scott Joranseninterventional cardiologist at the Cardiovascular Institute of the South in Meridian, Mississippi.
“However, as we age, the same thing can happen not from a clot but simply from aging and damage to veins and valves, and this can cause abnormalities in the veins of the legs,” adds- he. Here’s what you need to know to keep your veins healthy.
Veins are thin-walled vessels with valves inside that allow blood to flow in one direction, Johns Hopkins Medicine says. “The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood to the tissues of the body through thicker-walled arteries; veins return this blood back to the heart.”
“Venous disease refers to any problem or condition that affects the part of your circulatory system that returns deoxygenated blood from your tissues back to your heart,” says the Dallas Vein Institute/Texas Vascular Institute.
“In healthy individuals, veins allow blood to flow back up from the periphery to the heart, and to perform such a function, there are valves within these veins that only allow blood to pass through a sense”, says Dr. Abdelhamed Abdelhamedcardiology specialist at the Premier Cardiovascular Institute at Miami Valley Hospital in Englewood, Ohio.
“For several reasons, these valves can be damaged, and once they are damaged, blood will flow by gravity to the periphery, and that’s the start of venous disease,” he adds.
“Venous disease is a process that occurs in the legs and can actually occur in different parts of the body,” says Dr. Megan Deacon-Caseyvascular specialist and medical director at Ponte Vedra Vein Institute in Florida.
She adds, “You have faulty valves that don’t work very well. And… it causes extra blood flow in the wrong direction in the legs. So with that you get increased pressure, increased volume. time, those veins get bigger and bigger.”
Venous disease includes the following, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
- Varicose veins, which are enlarged, swollen, knotted clusters of purple veins.
- Superficial thrombophlebitis, red, engorged, heart-shaped veins associated with localized swelling, pain or tenderness.
- Deep vein thrombophlebitis, inflammation of a vein (usually in an extremity, especially one of the legs) that occurs in response to a blood clot in the vessel.
Poor blood circulation leads to increased pressure and increased volume in the veins, Deacon-Casey explains. “And what that does over time, these veins get bigger and bigger,” she says. “You start to see some of them on the surface, called varicose veins. They’re usually big and swollen and swollen. And then you can see other parts of what venous insufficiency can do, like spider veins.”
Symptoms of venous disease depend on the location of the disease, says Dr. Yves Gabriel, vascular specialist, vascular and endovascular surgeon at the Vein Center in Clearwater, Florida.
“There are patients who have pain when walking after walking a certain distance,” he says. “It’s clearly a very telltale sign of something going on. There’s something called trophic changes, which is also a sign of vascular disease, and that’s when someone develops a spot that has poor growth hair or ulcerations. It is clear that this can also progress to necrosis and gangrene. And anything that seems abnormal, such as single sets of pain, whether in the abdomen or in the upper limbs as well.
There are multiple symptoms, but over time they can get chronically worse and affect everything you do,” adds Deacon-Casey. “Your skin can deteriorate. You may have difficulty walking. You may have pain that affects you every day.”
Other symptoms include restless legs, cramps, lymphedema or swelling of the legs, thickened skin.
Risk factors for venous disease include the following, according to Mount Sinai Health System At New York: age, family history, being female, history of deep vein thrombosis in the legs, obesity, pregnancy, sitting or standing for long periods, being tall.
The risk of developing venous disease increases with age, according to the Dallas Vein Institute. A third of Americans over the age of 45 have some kind of venous disease.
“It’s very important for the patient to understand their family history,” says Gabriel. “I really believe that with this knowledge they can be better equipped to recognize signs and symptoms later if they develop. But again, some patients don’t develop signs and symptoms until they do. is too late, so understanding your family’s history and understanding your care is very important early on.”
The best treatment for venous disease is prevention. Walk, exercise, control your weight, wear low-heeled shoes, and avoid sitting or standing for long periods in one position, advises Johns Hopkins Medicine.
On long plane or car journeys, stop and walk regularly.
If you develop symptoms of venous disease, seek treatment.
“If your symptoms start increasing and interfering with your activities of daily living, as we call it, ” said Crystal Boatwright, assistant physician at the Ponte Vedra Vein Institute in Florida. “If you can’t do the things you love; if you notice that your legs are more tired, we tend to associate this with life. But we were made to walk, we were made to do activities. So if it’s starting to affect your lifestyle, the sooner you get it treated, the easier it is for you and the better the results.”
Treatments can include wearing compression socks, Joransen says. For more severe cases, “symptoms are greatly improved with vein ablation, where we close off the diseased vein so blood flows through healthy veins,” he says. “And the vast majority of the time, it relieves symptoms significantly.”
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