Veins are thin-walled structures inside of which a set of valves keeps blood in the body flowing in one direction. The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood to the body’s tissues through thicker-walled arteries; the veins return that blood to the heart. Veins located close to the surface of the skin are called superficial veins and the veins found in the muscles of the arms and legs are called deep veins.
Damaged vein walls hinder the circulatory system, allowing blood to collect and flow in a retrograde (backward) fashion when the muscles relax. This creates an unusually high-pressure buildup in the veins. This buildup causes further stretching and twisting of the veins, increased swelling, more valve incompetence, sluggish blood flow and potential blood clot formation. Eventually, this condition can lead to various disorders known as venous disease.
Early symptoms may seem minor. However, they can become more serious – and even life-threatening – if they are not treated. Which is why it is important to be aware of symptoms and seek medical advice at the earliest sign of a problem.
Varicose Veins. Varicose veins are twisted, swollen veins near the surface of the skin and occur when weak or defective valves allow blood to flow backward or stagnate within the vein. Chronic obstruction of the veins can also cause varicose veins, but in most cases no underlying abnormality can be identified. Varicose veins are quite common, though women are affected twice as often as men. Usually appearing in the legs, varicose veins may also occur in the anus, where they are known as hemorrhoids. While not a serious health risk, varicose veins can be eliminated for cosmetic reasons or if they cause discomfort.
Deep Vein Thrombosis. A thrombosis is a blood clot. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) refers to a blood clot in the leg that does not travel to other parts of the body. Most DVTs occur in the veins in the calf, but they also can occur in the thigh and in the hip area. These blood clots usually begin in areas where the ability of the blood to clot is out of balance or where blood flow is stopped or decreased, for example when there is an injury to the blood vessel wall. Each year, up to 800,000 Americans suffer from DVT.
Pulmonary Embolism. Pulmonary embolism is a blockage in an artery in the lungs. It occurs when a blood clot – usually from the legs (deep vein thrombosis) – breaks off, is carried through the bloodstream and lodges in the arteries in the lungs. This blocks the flow of blood through the heart, which may lead to death.
When to Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you have a painful, swollen vein that does not disappear in a few days, or if you have unexplained swelling in an arm or leg.
- Aching pain
- Easily tired legs
- Leg heaviness
- Swelling in the legs
- Darkening of the skin (in severe cases)
- Numbness in the legs
- Itching or irritated rash on the legs
Deep Vein Thrombosis
- Aching pain
- Swelling in area of blood clot
- Warmth and redness in area of blood clot
- Chest pain (often sudden)
- Shortness of breath
- Sharp pain that worsens when taking a deep breath
- Coughing up blood
- Stagnation of blood flow due to immobility. This is common among bedridden patients (such as heart patients and those who have undergone any type of major or orthopedic surgery, especially of the hip or knee) and healthy persons who sit or lie still for an extended period –for example, on a long trip.
- Blood vessel injury, caused by trauma, intravenous catheters or needles, chemotherapeutic agents, or infectious organisms.
- Conditions that increase the tendency for blood to coagulate, such as a familial deficiency in anti-clotting factors or disorders like systemic lupus erythematosus.
Follow prevention tips as recommended by your doctor. These can include walking, controlling weight, wearing low-heeled shoes and avoiding long periods of sitting or standing in one position. Be sure to stand up and walk around often on long trips in airplanes or automobiles. Following a heart attack or major surgery, low doses of an anticoagulant (such as heparin or warfarin) may be recommended. Getting up and walking around again as soon as possible following either of those events is also advised.
Contact for Appointment
Spring of Youth Medical Group
1155 Ocean Springs Rd.
Ocean Springs, MS 39564
Monday – Thursday: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday: Closed