Venous insufficiency occurs when damaged valves no longer allow blood to travel to the heart. This causes long-term, increased venous blood pressure, which can lead to painful swelling, skin discoloration, heaviness and cramping of the legs and feet, and leg ulcers. While there are several different risk factors for venous insufficiency, it is commonly caused by two pre-existing conditions: blood clots (deep vein thrombosis) and varicose veins.
Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, occurs when blood clots form in a deep, interior vein – most often in the lower leg or thigh. Sometimes, this vein condition may develop without any noticeable symptoms; however, common symptoms include swelling, pain and redness of the skin.
While DVT can be treated, it can also lead to a very serious and sometimes life-threatening condition known as a pulmonary embolus. This develops when blood clots in the deep vein break off and travel through the blood stream to the lungs. Symptoms of blood clots in the lungs include:
- Chest pain
- Trouble breathing
- Fast heartbeat
- Excessive sweating
These enlarged veins typically have a rope-like appearance and are larger than three millimeters in diameter. When blood pools in the veins, the pressure of gravity over time causes blood to gather, which gives the veins a bulging appearance. While varicose veins alone are not considered a serious medical condition, they may cause discomfort and can lead to complications that are serious. Symptoms include:
- Skin discoloration
- Leg cramps or aches
- Heaviness of legs
Spider veins, a milder type of varicose veins, are a result of dilated venous capillaries that fill with blood and appear just under the skin. This condition is not considered harmful, and is often treated for cosmetic reasons using a method called sclerotherapy.
If you believe you may be at risk for venous insufficiency, DVT, varicose veins or another related condition, it’s recommended that you consult a physician as soon as possible. If you’re unsure, our venous disease self-assessment can help point you in the right direction.