The veins of the body carry deoxygenated blood that has been used by the muscles and organs back to the heart, so the heart can then pump the deoxygenated blood to the lungs to be re-oxygenated, which will then be able to be pumped throughout the body via the arteries. However, this process may be impeded in the presence of venous disease.
In the United States, there are 80 million people who have some form of venous disease. Another shocking statistic is the one in three people over the age of 45 has venous disease, but only 4% of these people are seeking treatment. There are various forms of venous disease, but there are 3 forms that commonly affect the lower extremity. These include: Deep vein thrombosis, varicose veins, and venous stasis ulcers.
Deep vein thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot in a vein. This clot can form from having surgery, taking hormone therapy, sitting for long periods, such as long flights, or in patients with blood clotting disorders. Symptoms in the leg with the clot will include: fatigue, pain, swelling, warmth, redness, and ability to see the affected vein “bumping” in the skin. If you believe you have a deep vein thrombosis, seek medical attention immediately, because it is an absolute medical emergency. Deep vein thrombosis can be deadly, because if the clot breaks it can travel to the lungs, which results in a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism.
Unlike deep vein thrombosis, varicose veins do not have a high risk of mortality. A varicose vein is the enlargement of the vein. This enlargement is caused by a defect of valves in the vein. Normal vein valves prevent blood from flowing backwards, but if the valves are not working properly, the blood pools in the vein. Varicose veins are most common in women and symptoms include: a visible tortuous vein “bumping” at the surface of the skin, which may be painful, but is usually asymptomatic, the vein may be a dark purple or blue color, or the area may be itchy. Treatment for varicose veins can begin by losing weight, elevating the legs, avoiding standing for excessive periods of time, or wearing compression stockings. In very severe cases of varicose veins various surgeries may be a treatment modality.
Patients who experience varicose veins may also be at risk for venous stasis ulcers. Venous stasis ulcers are due to lack of valve function in the leg and are usually located below the knee, but above or at the ankle on the inside of the leg or ankle. However, the most common site is on the inside of the ankle, due to the organization pattern of the veins. Venous stasis ulcers make up about 80% of all ulcers that located in the leg. In the presence of venous stasis ulcers, there is an open shallow ulcer, with irregular borders, edema, redness, and/or drainage. There is no self or at-home treatment for venous stasis ulcers or any form of ulcer, so if you have an ulceration, consult a podiatrist immediately to avoid worsening the ulcer or complications, such as infection.