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Is venous insufficiency life threatening?

Author: Blog Author Posted: January 24, 2019 Category:

For many individuals, the appearance of varicose veins or spider veins is largely a cosmetic concern.  However, these unwanted, abnormal vessels sometimes signal serious leg vein disease.  Among the potential vein-health complications are venous insufficiency, which can prove life-threatening.  Fortunately, physicians offer a number of convenient vein treatment options.

Why Venous Insufficiency is Dangerous

Venous insufficiency develops when the valves or walls of leg veins fail to work effectively.  According to the Cleveland Clinic, up to 40 percent of U.S. residents have chronic venous insufficiency.  It affects more women than men and is especially prevalent in those 50 or older.

Leg vein disease makes it impossible for leg vessels to return blood to the heart for recirculation.  Weakened valves allow blood to succumb to gravity, fall backward, and pool.  The result could be varicose veins or spider veins, which are similar but distinct disorders. 

MedlinePlus notes that long-term damage to valves and weakening of vein walls combine to cause chronic venous insufficiency.  Affected veins remained filled with blood, particularly when the individual is standing.

Patients might experience a variety of symptoms, such as:

  • •Dull aching, cramping, or heaviness in the legs
  • •Tingling and itching
  • •Worsening pain when standing
  • •Reduced pain with legs elevated
  • •Changes in leg skin such as cracked skin, varicose vessels, hardened tissue, or swollen or weepy skin

In addition to the cosmetic concerns associated with abnormal veins, patients with venous insufficiency face several rare but serious complications.  Occasionally, affected veins near to the skin’s surface might burst and bleed, an event likely to recur.  Long-term fluid buildup from blood-engorged veins sometimes causes extremely painful ulcers, typically near the ankles. 

The Mayo Clinic indicates that leg swelling might signal a blood clot, also known as thrombophlebitis.  If the clot dislodges, it could travel to the lungs and cause a life-threatening embolism.   Some patients develop a serious condition known as post-phlebitic syndrome months or years following a deep vein thrombosis.

Treatments to Restore Vein Health

Vein specialists offer several treatment options for leg vein disease that causes varicose veins and spider veins and that can result in chronic venous insufficiency.  Conservative measures might include wearing compression stockings, elevating the legs more frequently, or shedding excess weight.

The alternative is eliminating incompetent vessels with a customized vein treatment plan.  Physicians perform these minimally invasive procedures on an outpatient basis:

  • •VenaSeal seals off affected veins with a medical adhesive inserted endovenously.
  • •VeinGogh eliminates a spider vein problem on the face or the legs via a microburst of heat energy delivered through a tiny insulated needle.
  • •Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is useful for eradicating veins just under the skin with heat.
  • •Phlebectomy is typically used with RFA and removes varicose vessels through tiny incisions in the skin.
  • •Sclerotherapy destroys spider and some varicose vessels by injecting a solution that causes vein walls to stick together.