The venous system is the part of the circulatory system that returns deoxygenated blood through the veins back to the heart. In normally functioning veins, one-way valves open as blood flows to the heart and close to prevent blood from flowing backwards. If the valves fail, venous blood can reflux and pool in the veins. Over time, increased pressure in the veins often causes additional valves to fail and result in weakening of the walls causing veins to bulge. This venous insufficiency leads to varicose veins and spider veins.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
One of the most common vascular diseases is Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD), a condition in which the arteries that carry blood to the limbs or organs become narrowed or clogged.
The causes of PAD include:
- Congenital abnormalities or malformations
- Problems with clotting (clauditation)
- Family history of vascular disease
- Injury to the vein or artery
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Cigarette smoking
- Poor diet
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Almost 60% of people with PAD will also have conditions such as coronary artery disease (CAD) and carotid artery disease. Both are serious diseases that if left untreated can lead to heart attack or stroke. Unfortunately, 25% of the 10 million people in the United States who have PAD go undiagnosed.
The most common symptom of PAD is pain in the legs when walking or being active. Other symptoms include:
- Numbness in hands, buttocks, legs or feet
- Burning or aching pain in the feet or toes when resting
- Cold legs or feet
- Sore on the leg or foot that will not heal
- Change in color of the skin on legs or feet
- Loss of hair on legs
- If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, contact your physician as soon as possible.
St. Vincent Healthcare’s Limb Preservation Program is a service provided by a comprehensive team of specialists who collaborate to treat most limb threatening conditions. While the team consists of physicians, nurses and technicians with expertise in all aspects of limb salvage, the main focus is on the patient with diabetic foot problems and/or vascular compromise who are at risk for foot and leg amputation due to conditions such as infections, non-healing wounds and peripheral artery disease.
Your veins have a single duty: to transport blood back to the heart so it may be oxygenated and sent back through the body. To keep the blood moving, the valves within the vein must properly open and then close.
For some people, these valves (most commonly in their legs) become weakened or damaged and fail to close completely. As a result, blood may leak back into the vein and begin to collect. Eventually this process causes the vein to swell and become discolored, sometimes to the point of being easily visible. This process creates what are known as varicose veins.
Varicose veins are one of the most common vein problems among adults; in fact, nearly 50% of men and women age 50 and older are diagnosed with them. The cause of varicose veins include aging, standing for long periods of time, a family history of varicose veins, being overweight or having a sedentary lifestyle, pregnancy and hormonal changes. Thrombophlebitis, or a swelling of the vein due to a blood clot, may also cause varicose veins.
The symptoms of varicose veins include:
- Aching, throbbing, cramping or pain in the legs
- A feeling of fullness or heaviness in the legs
- Swelling of the legs and ankles
- A change in color of the skin and ankles
- Sores or ulcers