Venous Insufficiency and The Risk of Blood Clots
Blood clots are platelets, proteins, and blood cells that stick together and build a blood mass. Your body makes a blood clot to control the bleeding when you get hurt. After the bleeding stops and healing occur, your body usually breaks down and removes the blood clot.
Unfortunately, sometimes, blood clots form where they should not, your body makes abnormal or too many blood clots, or the blood clots do not break down as they should. These blood clots can be dangerous and can cause other health problems.
Blood clots can form or travel to blood vessels in the limbs, lungs, brain, heart, and kidneys. Depending on where blood clots locate, they will cause different types of problems:
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) presents when a blood clot is in a deeper vein, typically in the thigh, pelvis, or lower leg. It can obstruct a vein and may cause harm to your leg.
- Pulmonary embolism may occur when a deep vein thrombosis ruptures and moves through the bloodstream to the lungs. It can harm your lungs and block your other organs from getting sufficient oxygen.
- Cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) is a rare blood clot in the brain’s venous sinuses. Usually, the venous sinuses drain blood from your brain. CVST blocks blood drainage and can cause a hemorrhagic stroke.
- Blood clots in other body parts can cause ischemic stroke, heart attack, kidney problems, kidney failure, and pregnancy-related issues.
We can find two different types of clots, arterial and venous:
- Arterial clots form in the arteries. Once arterial clots occur, they cause symptoms immediately. Because this type of clot blocks oxygen from reaching vital organs, it can cause various complications such as heart attack, stroke, severe pain, and paralysis.
- Venous clots form in the veins. Venous clots generally form slowly over time. Symptoms of venous clots gradually become more noticeable.
A blood clot may be life-threatening, depending on its severity and location.
Venous Insufficiency And Varicose Veins
Venous insufficiency is a medical-related condition in which the veins in the body (most often in the legs) cannot drive blood back to the heart. This event causes blood to pool in the blood vessels and become enlarged (varicose veins) or dilate over time.
Typically, blood circulates via arteries from the heart to the legs and back to the heart via veins. The veins rely on the surrounding muscles and a network of one-way valves to push blood up from the feet and prevent blood from flowing backward.
If the muscles and one-way valves weaken or fail, the vein becomes incompetent, and blood accumulates instead of flowing back to the heart.
Venous insufficiency causes symptoms such as:
- The presence of dark purple or blue colors on the skin’s surface.
- Twisted and bulging veins.
- Swelling of the legs, pain, itching, throbbing, burning, and muscle cramps
- Heaviness and fatigue in the legs.
- Restless legs.
- Skin discoloration.
- Varicose legs.
Varicose veins are surface blood vessels that get bigger and convoluted. Any vein in the body may turn varicose, but the condition often happens in the legs’ veins. Varicose veins differ from spider veins which are very small bluish veins close to the skin and appear on the legs or face. Spider veins usually do not produce pain and are more of a cosmetic concern.
Risk Factors For Venous Insufficiency Include:
- A history of blood clots.
- Family history.
- A history of smoking.
- Pregnancy and other conditions put pressure on the veins in the legs.
- Standing or sitting for a long time.
- Being overweight increases pressure on the lower extremities.
- Weakened blood vessel walls.
- Aging results in decreased elasticity of the blood vessels.
- Chronic constipation, and in rare cases, tumors.
- Inflammation of the veins (phlebitis).
Complications of venous insufficiency include:
- Blood clots can lead to deep venous thrombosis.
- Inflammation and swelling.
- Skin ulcers.
- Start bleeding when veins near the surface of the skin explode.
- Superficial thrombophlebitis occurs when the surface veins closest to the skin inside the legs become tender, swollen, and cord-like.
Risk Factors For Blood Clots
- A patient suffers from varicose veins, leg sores, and ulcers: A blood clot forms when a blood vessel is damaged or weakened. When you suffer from varicose veins, you have an increased risk of blood clots because the vein walls no longer support the vessels, increasing the likelihood that they will rupture.
- An individual shows stasis or slow blood flow: Varicose veins, prolonged periods of immobility, and surgery cause poor circulation, which may cause blood clots.
- Blood clotting factors abnormalities: A defect in the blood clotting factors may lead to the formation of blood clots. Factors include:
- Varicose veins, leg sores, and ulcers.
- Prolonged periods of immobility.
- Pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and menopause.
- Blood thinning medications such as aspirin or warfarin.
- Use of birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.
- Estrogen supplements after menopause.
- Cigarette smoking.
- Family history of blood clots, especially if your mother had varicose legs or varicose veins.
- Cancer, especially those cancers that spread to the bone marrow.
Diagnosing And Evaluation Of Blood Clots
The evaluation of your condition differs depending on the place and type of your blood clot. Your physician will usually begin by obtaining your medical history, as it can provide information about the factors that caused the lump, and perform a physical examination.
In an emergency where the individual cannot describe the symptoms, physicians may send the patient for testing immediately after a physical exam.
The physician may send you to one or more of the following tests:
- Venous ultrasound: this test is usually the first step in confirming a venous blood clot. Physicians use sound waves to create a view of your veins. They may use a Doppler ultrasound to help visualize the blood flow through your veins.
If the ultrasound results are inconclusive, they may use venography or magnetic resonance angiography.
- Chest CT angiography: if your physician suspects you have a pulmonary embolism, you may undergo CT angiography. A leg fragment or pelvic clot that breaks off and travels through the veins to the lung is the most common cause of a pulmonary embolism. The physician may send you for a chest x-ray at the suspicion that you may have a condition other than a blood clot.
- Abdomen and pelvis CT angiography: Your doctor will use this scan when suspecting a blood clot somewhere in your abdomen or pelvis or rule out other conditions that cause the same symptoms as blood clots.
- Head and neck CT angiography: If you have symptoms of a stroke, your doctor will order an emergency head CT scan to confirm the presence of a clot. In certain situations, your physician may order a cerebral angiography test. You may also have a carotid ultrasound to see if a blood clot fragment in the neck moved to the brain.
- Blood clots may cause symptoms that imitate other diseases or conditions. Therefore, you may go through additional exams to exclude other conditions.
Facts About Blood Clots
- More deaths are due to pulmonary embolism than AIDS, motor vehicle accidents, and breast cancer combined.
- Blood clots also occur in varicose veins; this is superficial phlebitis.
- Superficial phlebitis typically feels like a stiff, tender bulge in the ear.
- Blood clots can be severe. Those clots in varicose veins are usually smaller and less dangerous; your doctor should treat them.
- You must immediately see your doctor if you suffer from varicose veins and experience pain or inflammation in your calf.
Treatment For Blood Clots
Your physician may recommend that you undergo catheter-directed thrombolysis, a procedure that delivers “clot-busting” medications to the clot spot, or surgery to remove the clot.
These treatments intend to control clots aggressively, as arterial clots can block blood flow to vital organs. Therefore, they are generally only used in emergency or life-threatening situations.
If doctors diagnose you with a deep vein clot, they prescribe you an anticoagulant medication to help thin the blood and allow it to pass through the clot spot easier.
Your physician may ask you to undergo an inferior vena cava filter replacement procedure. Doctors recommend this procedure for patients at high risk for blood clots. They place a filter in your vein to help prevent blood clot fragments from traveling through your veins to your heart or lungs.
Awareness of the symptoms of blood clots in the legs is vital. This way, you can get medical attention and make a diagnosis. If you suspect you could have a blood clot, seek medical attention immediately.
If you are looking for vein removal options, vein surgery, or if you are worried about deep vein thrombosis, vein experts know how to tailor a personalized treatment plan to tackle your leg discomfort and help you feel and look your best.
We are Modern Heart and Vascular Institute, a diagnostic and preventative medicine cardiology practice. For more information, contact us.
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After the affected veins have responded to the treatment, they usually do not return or reappear, but new varicose or spider veins may develop.
Your physician will likely schedule a follow-up visit about a month after the treatment to determine how well it worked and if you need more sessions. After that, you should wait about six weeks before having another sclerotherapy treatment.
Before making a decision, you should discuss the benefits and risks of sclerotherapy with your physician and possible coverage with an insurer.
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Modern Heart and Vascular, a preventive cardiology medical practice, has several offices around Houston. We have locations in Humble, Cleveland, The Woodlands, Katy, and Livingston.
We are Modern Heart and Vascular Institute, a diagnostic and preventative medicine cardiology practice.
Every heart has a story… What’s yours?
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At the Modern Heart and Vascular Institute, we offer state-of-the-art cardiovascular care with innovative diagnostic tools and compassionate patient care. Our priority at Modern Heart and Vascular Institute is prevention. We help patients lead healthier lives by avoiding unnecessary procedures and surgeries.
This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need cardiovascular care, please call us at 832-644-8930.