Venous Disorders

Treating Cardiovascular Diseases in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois

Venous disease is a collective term that refers to various conditions and disorders that affect the veins. Veins are blood vessels that bring oxygen-poor blood back to your heart.

Venous Disease Symptoms

Commonvein disease symptomsinclude pain, fatigue, itching, burning, swelling, throbbing and restlessness in the affected area. Like their symptoms, venous disorders do not go away unless they are treated.

There are various types of venous disorders, depending on their cause and whether they occur in your superficial veins, which are close to the skin, or in your deep veins, which lie within groups of muscles. The following are some of the more common types of vein disease and their related venous disease symptoms:

  • Chronic venous insufficiency is a condition that occurs when blood pools in the veins. Symptoms may include chronic swelling in the lower legs and ankles, achiness in the legs, and leg skin that is itchy, leathery and dry. Left untreated, this condition can lead to leg ulcers. Learn more about venous insufficiency symptoms and leg ulcer causes
  • Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot, known as a thrombus, forms in a vein deep inside the body and restricts or blocks normal blood flow. When the clot occurs in a leg, symptoms may include pain, swelling, redness and leg ulcers. 

    Sometimes a thrombus breaks loose and causes a pulmonary embolism, which is a blockage in a lung artery. Learn more about pulmonary embolism symptoms
  • Excessive blood clotting occurs when blood clots form too easily or don’t dissolve properly. Blood clots can occur deep within the veins of the lower body or in the heart, lungs, brain or kidneys. Symptoms vary depending on where the clots are located. For example, when clots occur in the deep veins of the legs, they may cause pain and inflammation. When they occur in the lungs, they may cause chest pain and shortness of breath. When they occur in the brain, they may cause paralysis, dizziness or problems with speaking or understanding speech. Learn more about blood clot symptoms
  • Superficial venous thrombosis, or phlebitis, occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein close to the surface of the skin. The most common symptom is pain. Most superficial blood clots remain in the superficial venous system and do not travel to the lungs. Learn more about phlebitis symptoms.
  • Varicose and spider veins occur when the walls of the veins weaken and dilate (widen). Sometimes this results in bulging, purplish ropes of veins just beneath the skin. Varicose veins can also cause muscle cramps and achy legs. Learn more about varicose veins treatment

Risks and Causes of Venous Disease

Venous disease occurs when the veins in your legs can no longer effectively bring the blood back to the heart, which causes blood to pool in the legs instead. Any of the following conditions can lead to venous disease:

  • A blood clot in the vein
  • Aging
  • Congenital defects
  • Heredity
  • Hypertension
  • Leg injuries
  • Muscle weakness
  • Obesity
  • Pelvic tumors
  • Pregnancy
  • Reduced mobility
  • Sitting or standing for extended periods of time
  • Weak, dilated veins that have valves that are don’t function properly

Sometimes the cause of venous disease isn’t known.

Diagnosing Venous Disease

Diagnosing venous disease is generally based on a physical exam and your signs and symptoms. Your doctor will also ask about your medical history and your family’s medical history.

In some cases, doctors perform lab tests to check your blood. To see how well blood is flowing through your veins, your doctor may recommend ultrasound testing and other imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography and X-rays using dye.

Treating Venous Disease

Depending on your condition’s cause and severity, vein treatments can include lifestyle changes, medications, non-surgical treatments and procedures, and surgery.

Lifestyle changes may involve quitting smoking, eating a healthier diet, changing exercise routines or wearing compression stockings. Wearing specially designed stockings or wraps is referred to as compression therapy. Compression therapy, the most common treatment, supports your veins and increases the circulation in your legs.

Medications known as blood thinners may be prescribed to prevent blood clots from forming. If a clot has already occurred and requires emergency treatment, special “clot-busting” medication may be recommended.

Non-surgical treatments are typically performed with a catheter, which is a small thin tube that is guided to the problem area.

  • Angioplasty uses a catheter with a tiny balloon on the end, which is inflated to open a blocked vein. To ensure that the vein remains open, a tiny metal mesh tube, known as a stent, is often placed permanently inside the vein. Learn more about angioplasty and stenting
  • A vena cava filter is a device that is inserted inside a large vein to help catch blood clots before they travel to the lungs. This treatment may be recommended for people who cannot take blood thinners.
  • Endovenous thermal ablation, also known as laser therapy, delivers heat through a catheter to close off problem veins. Compared to surgical procedures, endovenous thermal ablation results in less pain, bleeding and bruising—and a quicker recovery.
  • Sclerotherapy is a treatment for varicose veins that involves injections of concentrated salt solutions into the affected veins, causing them to collapse and disappear.

Surgical treatments are sometimes necessary when medication or non-surgical treatments are not successful or not an option. They may also be recommended to prevent a condition from becoming more severe or to improve quality of life.

  • A surgical bypass reroutes blood flow around a blocked vein by creating a new pathway for blood flow. During this procedure, a surgeon removes the diseased portion of vein and replaces it with a graft, which is a portion of a normal vein taken from another site in the body. Bypass surgery is typically reserved for patients who have severe venous insufficiency, resulting in a painful, swollen leg and/or non-healing wounds.
  • Ligation and stripping are two procedures that are performed at the same time. Ligation refers to the surgical tying of veins through a small incision in the skin to prevent pooling of blood. Stripping refers to the removal of the vein. In many instances, the vein is removed using a minimally invasive surgical procedure called venous ablation.
  • Subfascial endoscopic perforator surgery, or SEPS, is a minimally invasive surgery used in treating venous ulcers that occur on perforator veins, which link superficial veins to deep veins. These veins are sometimes damaged by deep vein thrombosis or chronic vein insufficiency. 
  • Valve repair is sometimes performed on the valves inside the veins to improve their function. Other times, a surgeon may perform a valve-transposition, a procedure that involves replacing a portion of the vein that has a non-functioning valve with a portion that has a normal valve.

A Leader in Treating Venous Disease

Aurora Health Careoffers a multidisciplinary team approach for treating venous disease and other vascular conditions. Our team includes vascular medicine specialists, cardiologists, neurologists, wound care specialists and podiatrists all under one roof.

Aurora doctors are conveniently located throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Find a doctor or heart specialist near you. To get a second opinion or if you need assistance finding a provider, please call 888-649-6892.