What are veins and vein problems?
Veins move blood throughout the legs and the rest of the body back to the heart. Muscles around veins and pressure from vein walls help to pump blood. Vein problems, like swelling (edema) and deteriorated veins and valves, can lead to venous diseases, which are veins that cannot move blood very well. Damaged or weakened vein walls or stretched or injured vessels cause venous diseases. When this happens, the veins cannot move blood back to the heart. When blood doesn’t move forward efficiently, it can cause swelling in the legs. (31)
What are the different kinds of venous diseases?
The following venous conditions affect the body’s ability to return blood to the heart:
Varicose veins are twisted and swollen veins just under the surface of the skin. When too much blood collects in the veins, it causes them to become enlarged and more visible than usual. Symptoms include leg swelling, an achy or heavy feeling in your legs and rashes.
Venous insufficiency is a condition in which it is difficult for the veins to send blood from the legs back to the heart. Symptoms include leg or ankle swelling, varicose veins and pain that gets worse when standing.
Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot in a vein deep in the body. Clots can form in injured veins, which may swell. If they move to the lungs, clots may cause a pulmonary embolism, which can be life-threatening. Symptoms include swelling and leg pain, warmth or redness in the affected leg, however many people have no symptoms.
Superficial venous thrombosis is a blood clot in a vein close to the skin surface. Symptoms include redness, swelling around veins and pain. (32,33)
How are venous diseases treated?
Medications or surgery may help remove blood clots and prevent them from returning. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider. (34)
Is there anything I can do to prevent venous diseases?
Exercising helps muscles stimulate veins, helping push blood back to the heart. Elevating the legs above the heart and using elastic compression stockings help keep blood from collecting in the lower legs. Both help prevent blood from pooling. Losing weight helps reduce pressure on the legs. Avoid standing and sitting in the same position and crossing your legs because it makes veins work harder to move blood forward. Eat less salty foods because too much salt can cause leg swelling. And avoid wearing high-heeled shoes because they keep calf muscles flexed, which can affect blood flow. (35)
How do the different types of compression stockings work?
There are three main types of compression stockings. Each offers different levels of pressure:
Support pantyhose apply the least amount of pressure because there is all-over leg compression.
Over-the-counter gradient compression hose apply more pressure.
Prescription-strength gradient compression hose apply the most pressure. Your doctor or a specially trained professional can help you find the prescription-strength gradient compression hose that meet your medical needs. Also, wear your hose every day and put them on before getting out of bed to help reduce swelling. (35)