Veins have an important job to do. They are responsible for moving blood, of course, but they move it in a specific direction. Veins carry oxygen-poor blood from the body’s extremities and other tissue back to the heart. From there, the blood heads to the lungs where it becomes oxygenated once again, before rejoining the circulatory system and being carried throughout the body via the arteries.
Venous insufficiency occurs when blood isn’t being properly pushed back to the heart and, due to the effects of gravity, blood pooling occurs (especially in the legs). This can occur due to a blood clot in the vein, or due to damaged valves in the veins, which usually prevent the backward flow of blood and subsequent pooling from occurring.
Unfortunately, venous disorders are fairly common for both men and women. They are also painful. Venous insufficiency places pressure on lower leg veins. The pressure causes superficial smaller veins to swell, resulting in pain and tiredness in the legs. The discomfort is especially present following long periods of standing. Fluid buildup in the feet and ankles is also a symptom of poor venous activity. Swelling may occur and the skin around the ankles may become discolored and thin. A wound, or varicose ulcer, may even form near the ankle.
Treating Venous Disorders
Treating venous insufficiency involves efforts to improve circulation, reduce blood pooling in the legs, and prevent leg ulcers.
Your physician will best be able to identify which type of treatment is appropriate for you, depending on the extent and cause of your issue.
Conservative options start with wearing compression stockings, which places incremental pressure up the legs to assist the movement of blood back to the heart; they can also help reduce swelling in the legs. Compression socks are a popular option as they are simple to use and involve no invasive medical procedure.
Elevating the legs is also recommend, for the same reason – as well as to reduce pressure on the lower legs. Regular exercise can also help strengthen muscles and improve blood flow.
Medications may be recommended to dissolve blood clots, increase blood flood (anticoagulants or blood thinners), reduce swelling (diuretics), and heal ulcers (aspirin, antibiotics).
Sclerotherapy involves injecting a saline-based solution into a damaged vein, which irritates it, causing it to collapse and reroute blood through another, healthy vein.
Endovenous ablation is a minimally invasive procedure image-guided procedure that uses radiofrequency or laser energy to close damaged veins, allowing blood to instead use healthy veins.
Surgical options include ligation (tying off the affected vein), vein stripping (surgical removal of the damaged vein), vein repair, and vein transplant.
While treatment options for venous insufficiency include noninvasive and surgical procedures, most patients are successfully treated using conservative methods. Less than 10 percent of patients with chronic venous insufficiency require surgery.
SC Internal Medicine Associates and Rehabilitation offers patient-centered health care. If you have a medical concern, call us at (803) 749-1111 to schedule an appointment.