venous disease

Recognizing Early Symptoms of Venous Disease

Vein disease can be sneaky. For some patients, the concept of having issues with their leg veins is obvious….huge, bulging, painful varicose veins. For a great many others, things can be a lot more subtle. In many cases, chronic superficial vein disease may be caused by a problem known as venous insufficiency: wrong way flow of blood in leg veins due to valve malfunction. This causes a buildup of blood that pools in leg veins, causing increased pressure or venous hypertension. Many of us around my vein clinic in the Chicago area can relate to this concept by thinking of our basements and sump pumps. I grew up on the North Side (Go Cubs) and remember the nearly yearly ritual of basement flooding. This is why I have no legacy of comic books and baseball cards to give my kids. What we didn’t have, but desperately needed, was a sump pump system. A pump to force flow upwards against gravity, pipes to carry the flow up and away and a one-way check valve to prevent flow from pooling straight back downward with gravity. G-d, Whom has not seen fit to bestow a world series victory on said Cubs for 108 years…has otherwise in His mercy bestowed on us a physiologic sump pump of sorts. Our calf muscles, as they contract and relax as we walk, serve as a peripheral heart pump. As the muscles contract, a force is generated that propels flow upward against gravity. Flow goes through “pipes”…superficial and deep veins. Such veins have a number of one-way check valves to prevent blood flow from pooling back in the “basement” of our legs. If the valves fail and allow downward flow…aka venous insufficiency…venous hypertension occurs. Unlike the obvious horror of a basement full of water, chronic superficial venous insufficiency is slowly progressive and insidious. So much so, that after many years patients often forget what their legs are SUPPOSED to feel like and instead get accustomed to a “new normal”: Pain in the legs that gets worse while standing and better when the feet are raised Leg cramps Throbbing […]

Common Causes of Venous Disease

Venous diseases are extremely common. About half of all Americans suffer from some form of venous disease during the course of their lifetime. Of all venous issues, spider veins and varicose veins are the most prevalent. Sometimes, people ignore their venous disease, but being proactive can prevent some serious issues from arising in the future. Let’s examine some of the most common causes of venous disease to understand why this is so important. 1. Genetics We all inherit traits from our parents. Many of them are good…and a few of them may be something we don’t want. If your mom or dad had venous disease, there’s about a 50% chance you may develop it, too. If both of your parents had it, there’s about a 90% chance that you will, too. The genetic factor is why this occurs in both men as well as women. 2. Pregnancy During pregnancy, there are three factors that increase the risk of developing varicose veins and spider veins: An increase in the hormones estrogen and progesterone to support the pregnancy also makes veins stretchier. An increase in the overall amount of blood to support both mom and baby also can stretch leg veins out. The growing baby in the pelvis can block the outflow of blood coming from leg veins; such increased pressure also leads to stretched-out leg veins. 3. Work Environment The type of work we do can determine if vein disease worsens over time. For example, professions that require prolonged standing such as teaching, hair stylists, retail sales, etc. all involve standing on your legs all day. With standing, gravity increases the tendency for blood to pool within leg veins. Over time, such pooling increases venous pressure and can lead to varicose veins and spider veins. Many Causes with One Result No matter the cause of vein disease, typical symptoms include the feeling of leg heaviness, fatigue, cramping, swelling and ache. Many patients aren’t aware that chronic “restless leg syndrome” may be caused by vein disease, too! You need to understand that you don’t have to live with venous disease. Treating it is in […]