Venous disease, or venous insufficiency, is a condition when the veins in the legs do not properly return blood flow back to your heart. Damaged or weakened veins cause blood to flow backwards and blood to pool in the legs. This leads to varicose veins, which are enlarged, bulging or twisting veins.
According to the Society for Vascular Surgery, venous insufficiency affects about 40 percent of people in the U.S. But who is more at risk to develop the condition?
Who Develops Venous Disease
Women are actually up to three times more likely than men to develop venous disease. This is because changes in hormone levels can weaken the vein walls and affect how well the valves work. In fact, those who are pregnant or have had multiple births are also more at risk due to hormonal changes.
Standing for long periods of time can play a major role in venous disease risk as well, as it increases the chance of vein leakage. Those who spend most of the day on their feet, or whose jobs require them to stand all day—such as teachers, cooks, baristas, cleaners, factory line workers, or retail workers—tend to be more at risk for this reason.
On the flip side, those who sit for long periods of time are also at risk, due to the lack of blood flow. If your job requires that you sit for most of the day, try to stand at least once per hour to help keep blood moving effectively throughout the legs.
Other risk factors include:
- Age 50+. Vein walls weaken as we age, preventing them from pumping blood back to the heart effectively.
- If the veins have to work harder to pump blood throughout the body, blood is more likely to pool in the legs.
- Just as smoking greatly increases your risk for cardiovascular disease, it also increases your chances for venous disease.
- Family History of Venous Disease
- Lack of Exercise
- Blood Clots in the Legs
- High Blood Pressure
Symptoms of Venous Disease
The following are the most common symptoms of venous disease. If you experience any of these symptoms, consider visiting a vein specialist for a consultation.
- Swelling, cramps or pain in the legs
- Flaking or itchy skin
- Ulcers that won’t heal
- Visible varicose veins
- Restless legs
- Tightness or heaviness in the legs
Treatment of Venous Disease
Venous disease can be treated with lifestyle modifications as well as medication. Compression stockings are most commonly used to help relieve symptoms, improve blood flow and reduce swelling. However to treat the root of the problem, interventional procedures can be done to remove or close off the diseased veins. Most of these procedures can be done in a Cardiovascular Institute of the South clinic.
Without treatment, chronic venous insufficiency can be very painful and debilitating. It can lead to tissue inflammation, tissue damage, or blood clots, and can cause ulcers and infections, which can spread. It is important to consult a vein specialist for a proper diagnosis.