Chronic Venous Disease
Chronic venous disease (CVD) is a term which encompasses several chronic conditions related to or caused by various vein disorders. Among the most common types of chronic venous disease are varicose veins and spider veins.
Varicose veins occur when faulty valves in the veins allow the blood to flow in the wrong direction. The blood stagnates in the vein, causing it to swell. Varicose veins can cause the legs to swell or feel achy, heavy and tired. A person with varicose veins also may experience itching, burning, numbness or tingling. Nighttime leg cramps, restless leg syndrome, and—in extreme cases—leg ulcers can be the result of varicose veins.
Spider veins are tiny, abnormally dilated veins in the skin. Although they are not usually painful, some patients may experience itching or burning due to spider veins. Some spider veins are not associated with venous reflux or insufficiency in larger superficial veins under the skin. Patients may choose to have these spider veins treated for cosmetic reasons. However, certain spider vein patterns of distribution may indicate the presence of larger varicose veins located deeper in the tissue.
Swelling or Edema
Swelling in the legs or edema occur when fluid becomes trapped in the soft tissues of the leg from malfunctioning valves in the veins. When the valves in leg veins begin to weaken, or fail, the blood can no longer be pumped out of the legs properly. This causes fluid and blood to become trapped in the legs. When the fluid begins to build up, the leg may begin to swell. The term for the buildup of fluid which leads to swelling in the body is edema.
Lymphedema is a form of chronic edema that occurs when the body’s lymphatic system does not function properly. It is not the same as edema caused by vein disease, although vein disease can eventually progress into a combined venous/lymphatic disorder. As with swelling in the lower legs, lymphedema requires the attention of a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) occurs when plaque slows blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. Plaque is made up mainly of cholesterol, calcium, fibrin, and fatty substances. It causes the arteries to harden, a condition known as Atherosclerosis. Because the plaque reduces blood flow to vital organs and limbs, they cannot keep up with the body’s demands. Arteries also bring blood away from the heart to the arms and legs, so if PAD goes untreated long enough, it can result in pain with walking, numbness and tinging in the feet, pain at rest and ultimately gangrene can set in, leading to amputation.
Chronic vein disease can lead to non-healing ulcers or open sores in the lower legs. Venous ulcers usually develop around the ankle and can vary in size from very small to several inches in diameter. While usually not very painful, venous ulcers can occasionally be quite painful or become infected, increasing the risk of further complications such as a bone infection or even amputation.
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