The circulatory system allows blood to deliver nutrients and remove waste products from your body. Given the importance of blood vessels, it’s essential to know when you have vascular disease.
Veins and arteries have differing functions and structures, so insufficiency manifests differently for each type. Understanding the differences between venous and arterial insufficiency can help you to get the correct treatment more quickly.
Causes and Mechanisms
Insufficiency is a result of poor blood circulation, regardless of the type of blood vessel. The main differences between venous insufficiency and arterial insufficiency come from the structural differences between these blood vessels.
Arteries convey blood from the heart towards bodily tissues. The higher internal pressure requires arteries to have thick but flexible walls. However, atherosclerosis can cause fatty deposits to build upon the interior surfaces of arteries. The resulting narrowing can restrict blood flow, especially when a blood clot forms within the restriction.
Meanwhile, veins return blood to the heart. In many body parts like the legs, blood has to flow against gravity. Veins rely on internal valves and contractions from nearby muscles to prevent backflow and maintain correct blood flow. However, these protective mechanisms may fail over time, causing veins to become swollen and contort. Ironically, wider veins are less effective in keeping correct blood flowing since blood can flow backward through the damaged valves.
Both types of insufficiency share some causes. Obesity, smoking, and aging are general risk factors for vascular disease. However, arterial insufficiency tends to stem from conditions that affect the entire body. Hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes can damage the arterial lining and promote atherosclerosis. Meanwhile, long hours of sitting or standing can increase the mechanical stress on leg veins, causing venous insufficiency.
Symptoms of Venous and Arterial Insufficiency
Since both arterial and venous insufficiency limits blood circulation, they tend to share similar symptoms. Low blood perfusion means that affected tissues don’t get enough nutrients and cannot clear waste products. Both types tend to affect legs the most, and patients typically feel pain and cramping. The legs may feel numb or cold, and slow-healing sores may develop. Other symptoms include skin discoloration, hair loss, and slow nail growth.
Additionally, venous insufficiency can cause swelling near the ankles and the lower legs. The inability of the veins to convey blood back to the heart causes fluid accumulation, leading to swelling.
Chronic venous insufficiency is not particularly dangerous, but it can significantly impact your quality of life. Meanwhile, the systemic causes that lead to arterial disease can cause dangerous complications. Atherosclerosis can affect arteries in the heart and brain and could cause heart attack and stroke.
In all cases of blood vessel disease, lifestyle changes are useful in reducing the severity of the conditions. Eating a healthy diet, engaging in moderate physical activity, and quitting smoking are effective ways to improve artery and vein health.
Your doctor may also prescribe medications. Blood-thinning drugs can prevent blood clot formation in both arteries and veins. Additionally, you might receive formulations to control hypertension, diabetes, or high cholesterol.
Surgical methods are also a viable option. For arterial insufficiency, a surgeon can perform angioplasty to expand the constricted sections of your arteries manually. They can then insert a stent into the artery to keep it open. Surgeons aim to remove the diseased vessels in venous insufficiency, allowing blood to flow through healthier veins. Both conditions might also see improvement from bypass surgery, which reroutes blood flow around the damaged area.
Vascular Disease Testing and Treatment in Irmo, SC
It’s clear that while venous and arterial insufficiency has similar symptoms, they tend to have different causes and treatments. Distinguishing between these conditions is essential to getting the correct treatment. By working with medical professionals with experience in vascular disorders, you can keep your veins and arteries in top condition.
Here at SC Internal Medicine Associates and Rehabilitation, our staff is ready to provide comprehensive and compassionate healthcare. Come experience our one-stop healthcare experience at our location in Irmo, South Carolina. For inquiries, call (803) 749-1111 or fill out our appointment request form. We look forward to serving you.