Venous disease is an umbrella term that covers a number of conditions that affect your veins, such as varicose veins and spider veins. Also known as vein disease, venous disease is very common. While varicose veins and spider veins are often just cosmetic issues, vein disease can be serious. Fortunately, vein doctors can diagnose and treat venous disease.
Veins are part of your circulatory system, which also includes arteries that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Unlike arteries that benefit from the force of gravity as they move blood downwards towards your feet, the veins in your legs must fight gravity to transport blood upwards towards your heart.
One-way valves act as flaps to prevent blood from moving backwards towards your feet, a condition known as reflux. These flaps open when you exercise to allow blood to flow freely but close in between heartbeats when you are sitting to trap blood in small segments of the vein.
Your valves may weaken over time and this weakness can cause the valves to fail, which allows blood to reflux and accumulate in your lower legs. Your body responds to the excess blood by expanding the veins, which can bloat, twist and become visible at the surface of your skin. Small veins turn into spider veins while larger veins turn into varicose veins.
Everything You Need to Know about Venous Disease
While varicose veins and spider veins are usually cosmetic issues, severe venous disease may be more serious. The cells of the body need oxygen to perform various jobs; without oxygen, the cells would die. Some cellular functions produce toxic byproducts, such as carbon dioxide. The blood that flows through veins carries away these toxins, which allows the cells to take in more oxygen.
Severe bloating of vein walls and malfunctioning valves can lead to chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), a condition that makes it difficult for blood to return to your heart and lungs to collect fresh oxygen. Without access to functioning veins, cells would suffer oxygen deprivation and toxic overload. Cells of the skin and underlying tissue begin to deteriorate, creating a painful skin sore known as a leg ulcer or stasis ulcer.
Vein disease may evolve into chronic venous disease (CVD), a group of conditions related to or caused by diseased or abnormal veins. CVD includes:
- Varicose veins and spider veins
- Phlebitis, which is inflammation of a vein
- Chronic venous insufficiency
- Skin changes on your leg
- Stasis ulcers
Symptoms of venous disease includes aching pain, legs that tire easily, leg heaviness, swelling of your legs, itching or numbness on certain parts of your legs, and the presence of an irritated rash on your legs.
Fortunately, your vein doctor can diagnose and treat most types of vein disease. Treatments may involve the injection of chemicals, or the use of lasers or removing the diseased veins through very tiny incisions in the skin.
For more information on venous disease and treatments for it, consult with your local vein doctor.