More than 30 million Americans suffer from venous disease, but only 10 percent seek treatment for it, according to the Society for Vascular Medicine.
Valves in a person’s deep leg veins keep blood moving against gravity and toward the heart. Sometimes the vein walls are weakened and valves become damaged. As a result, a person may develop venous disease, also known as chronic venous insufficiency. A person who has chronic venous insufficiency will experience a variety of symptoms created by the blood’s inability to travel out of the legs.
“Symptoms of venous disease can vary a lot,”’ says Abdelhamed Abdelhamed, M.D., a cardiologist with Premier Heart Associates. “It can be as simple as swelling, discomfort, and aching in the legs. Or it can be big varicose veins that can be unsightly. In more extreme cases, there can be damage to the skin itself such as discoloration or sores that don’t heal.”
Venous insufficiency is a common health issue. It is estimated that about 30 percent of the population have some form of venous disease. Unfortunately, many of these individuals will not receive the correct diagnosis to their problem because of a lack of aware about the disease, says Dr. Abdelhamed, who practices within Premier Health Specialists.
There are many factors that place a person at-risk for developing venous insufficiency. Females are more likely than males to develop the disease due to fluctuations in hormone levels. Individuals who spend a significant part of their day standing or sitting due to their occupation are also at high risk. Blood clots in the legs can also damage a person’s veins placing them at-risk for the disease. And those who have a family history of venous insufficiency may develop it as well.
Venous insufficiency is diagnosed first through a clinical exam which includes an examination of a patient’s health history. A physician may also order several diagnostic tests such as ultrasounds of the veins to determine how well the blood is able to flow from a person’s peripheral limbs back to the heart, Dr. Abdelhamed says.
Most individuals can manage the disease by taking conservative measures. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests individuals take these steps:
Create compression: Wear compression stockings or socks to help aid in the upward circulation of the blood in the leg and to decrease potential swelling.
Keep moving: Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time. Even slight movement of your legs can help aid in circulation. It’s suggested that flexing (moving feet at the ankle joint up and down) the feet while sitting or shifting positions while standing can help alleviate pressure.
Increase exercise: Regular exercise can help strengthen leg muscles that aid in the constriction of the veins deep in the legs. It also can also help reduce the risk for being overweight, which can lead to the disease.
Seek care for wounds: Venous insufficiency can cause skin sores that are hard to heal. It’s important to seek help from a physician to help care for any wounds that might come about due to the disease.
The disease can progress to a level where conservative measures are not enough and symptoms such as discoloration or thickening of the skin and skin ulcers form. In this case, medical intervention is available to provide relief. One procedure that has provided relief and success to sufferers is called the venous ablation. Venous ablation uses controlled and consistent heat delivered by a catheter to seal off the diseased vein. Once the vein is sealed, blood is rerouted to nearby healthy veins.
“About 95 percent of the time, a patient will see relief of their symptoms when we have accurately diagnosed their issue and responded with the right type of therapy,” Dr. Abdelhamed says. “Some damages, such as skin discoloration, are not reversible, especially if it is late in the disease, but most symptoms will improve.”
For more information on venous disease or to find a Premier Health Specialists physician near you, visit www.premierhealthspecialists.org/venousdisease.
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