May-Thurner Syndrome (MTS) develops when your left iliac vein gets compressed by your right common iliac artery. This hampers drainage in your left leg. And, without treatment, you’ll face an increased risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot in the deep veins of your leg. Additional concerns with this condition include a higher risk for other venous complications, including a pinching or narrowing of your veins. In fact, research suggests that MTS is responsible for between two and five percent of all venous disorders of the lower extremities.
May-Thurner Syndrome: Who’s at Risk?
This condition mostly affects younger women between the ages of 20 and 45. It’s most likely to develop if you’ve been immobile for a long time, or after a pregnancy. But it can impact women of other ages, though it’s less likely. And in rare cases, men may also be affected.
Signs and Symptoms
The most common May-Thurner symptoms include pelvic pain, painful leg swelling and varicose veins, almost always in your left leg. You may also notice changes in skin color, persistent leg pain, swollen veins and leg ulcers. And chronic hemorrhoids, as well as upper leg swelling, may both develop.
Without treatment, May-Thurner syndrome will progress through a series of stages. At first, while your vein is compressed, you may not notice any symptoms. But then, if compression continues, venous spurs will form. These are fibrous growths in your vein, and they inhibit your blood flow. (That’s when your DVT risk starts to rise.)
After this stage, the next progression would be forming a DVT. At this point, you may notice DVT symptoms such as warm skin, swelling, changes in skin color as well as pain or cramping. A DVT is a medical emergency, because it can break free from your leg veins and travel to your lungs. (This is called a pulmonary embolism, a potentially fatal disease.)
Diagnosing and Treating May-Thurner Syndrome
We may screen you for May-Thurner syndrome if you come in with varicose veins or other symptoms. (Especially if you’re in the at-risk age group, or recently had a baby or went on extended bed rest.) We can usually detect the compressed vein with a diagnostic ultrasound.
As interventional radiologists, we’re often able to treat this disease by stenting or inflating your compressed vein. This technique opens up your vein, improving blood flow and reducing your risk for DVT. If you’re at risk for May-Thurner Syndrome but aren’t yet in trouble, we can also help you prevent this risky disease.
Tips for Prevention
While we can’t guarantee prevention, certain measures can lower your disease risk. These include wearing compression stockings during your pregnancy. (And when you’re going to be immobile for a long time, as with an extended flight or road trip.)
Sticking to a healthy weight, especially during pregnancy, can also help you avoid May-Thurner Syndrome. And getting regular exercise–especially with moves that involve your calf muscles–can boost blood flow in your leg veins, helping lower your risk.
Are you a woman between the ages of 20 and 45, with any symptoms of May-Thurner syndrome? Don’t wait another day to seek help for this progressive disease. Instead, schedule an immediate appointmentschedule an immediate appointmentschedule an immediate appointment with our Houston-area vein specialists. Using our non-invasive imaging devices, we can diagnose this disease in its early stages. That way, we can intervene as soon as possible, and prevent potentially life-threatening complications.
Sources: The Cleveland Clinic