Your body carries blood from your heart out to the rest of your body through your arteries. Veins then carry blood back to the heart, and vein valves stop the blood from flowing backward. This is a healthy transfer of blood in your body. However, when veins have trouble sending blood from your limbs to the heart, it’s known as venous insufficiency. More specifically, the blood supply doesn’t flow back properly to the heart, causing blood to pool in the veins in your legs.
There are various symptoms, causes, and diagnostic tools available to the Vein Experts at Spectrum Dermatology that will help treat your vein condition including varicose, spider, and reticular veins. By examining the signs and asking about symptoms of the disorder; such as the presence of varicose veins, swelling in the legs, skin changes, or skin ulcers; the diagnosis for the underlying causes of vein disease is possible and a treatment plan is developed for your particular situation.
Symptoms of venous insufficiency include:
Leg swelling that does not extend to their feet
Numbness over areas where there are pronounced varicosities.
Throbbing in the Legs
This feeling is due to the increased pressure of the blood against the vein wall. This leg throbbing can occur over the entire leg, but is most commonly over areas of large varicose veins, or spider veins. Again, it is usually worse after long periods of standing or at the end of a long day. Some patients complain that they have leg throbbing in their feet or calves after exercising for a long time, as well
Itchiness or an irritated rash on or near your veins. This may lead to severely dry skin and can be a form of eczema.
Desire to Elevate
Sometimes symptoms of venous insufficiency can be rather subtle. Often, patients express the feeling that they “must” put their legs up at the end of the day, and when they do, they feel a lot of relief. They feel that their veins are “under pressure” when they are standing, and they feel this feeling of leg pressure go away when their legs are up. Although this can be normal, it often indicates a subtle sign of venous insufficiency.
Worsening Symptoms at the Time of Menstruation
In women, varicose veins may be more uncomfortable around the time of the menstrual period, and may worsen after pregnancy. Likely, this is due to hormonal effects on veins.
Varicose veins can often be painful to the touch, especially after a long day of standing. This is due to increased pressure within these fragile veins. Even spider veins can be painful, since they often transmit abnormally high pressures from the larger veins. Often, this pain improves considerably with compression stockings.
When assessing varicose veins, or spider veins, it is important to know the root cause of the problem. Is there venous insufficiency? If so, which veins are not working well?
Venous ultrasound is the main tool that vascular surgeons use to evaluate the veins of the leg. The ultrasound works by measuring sound waves in tissue, and generating images. From these images, we can see which veins are working well, and which ones are leaking blood back into the legs, causing increased pressure. Most commonly, the culprit vein will be the greater saphenous vein, which runs under the skin from the ankle to the groin, on the inner part of the leg and thigh. The ultrasound will evaluate the greater saphenous vein, as well as the other main veins in the leg for insufficiency. Furthermore, this study can also tell us if there are blood clots in the veins, which can be potentially dangerous.
If you have varicose veins or signs of venous insufficiency, you will most likely have an ultrasound as part of your evaluation. The ultrasound should take about 30-45 minutes.
The following factors may put one at increased risk of developing spider veins or varicose veins. While the causes of venous disease are not clearly identified yet, considering risk factors we have to differentiate between varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency.
Did your mother and grandmother have huge varicose veins? Do all of your siblings? Then there is a fairly good chance that you also may develop varicose veins. Not all cases are genetic, of course, but the predisposition to develop varicose veins does run in families.
Females are much more likely to develop spider or varicose veins (although 25% of cases occur in males). Some research has indicated increased levels of female hormones may cause relaxation of vein walls (and possible failure).
The enlarged uterus can cause increased pressure on all veins. Combined with elevated hormone levels, many women get varicose veins for the first time while pregnant (or shortly thereafter). These veins usually get worse with subsequent pregnancies, and may improve somewhat after childbirth.
As we get older, the elasticity in our vein walls decreases, increasing the possibility that valves will fail and varicose veins will develop.
Increased or excessive weight increases the risk for varicose veins and venous insufficiency. This may be because of increased pressure on the venous system in obese individuals, or because of the disruption of the geometry of the valves in the tissues. Often losing weight helps alleviate the symptoms of venous insufficiency in obese patients.
People whose occupations require them to stand or sit for long periods of time (e.g. waitresses, hairdressers) are statistically more likely to develop varicose veins than those who do not have this type of job.
Trauma may injure veins and cause valves to fail, leading to symptoms of venous insufficiency. Trauma could mean anything from a broken leg as a teenager, to knee or hip surgery, to a blunt injury which never caused broken bones. It is important to share any history of trauma with your physician.
At Spectrum Vein Center, our experienced vascular ultrasound technologists help immensely in our ability to diagnose the underlying problems causing our patients’ varicose, spider, or reticular veins. Once we see which veins aren’t working correctly, we are able to formulate a customized vein treatment strategy. Spectrum Dermatology provides expertise, knowledge, and passion to vein disease. Our experience and reputation make Spectrum Dermatology one of the most sought-after dermatologists in the Scottsdale and Phoenix area. For more information or to set up an appointment, please contact Spectrum Vein Center at (480) 948-8400.