30 million Americans suffer from vein disease and even the more severe Chronic Venous Insufficiency Disease (CVI). Without treatment, varicose veins turn into CVI and progressively become worse.
Only 1.9 million out of 30 seek treatment even though the screening process takes less than 15 minutes. Treatment starts with education.
Continue reading to learn more about the five stages of vein disease.
1. Reticular Veins (Spider Veins)
The first stage of vein disease is reticular veins. Spider veins are bluish purple veins that do not protrude from the skin. These veins run in a spiderweb-like pattern, and they are small and sometimes hard to see.
These may not seem like an issue, and they typically go unnoticed because there is no pain or discomfort associated with this stage. That does not mean you should let them go.
If you have spider veins, this should be the first sign you need to get checked for vein disease.
Causes of spider veins include:
- Excessive standing due to an occupation
- Pregnancy or menopause
- Hormone imbalance
At this stage, it is easy to ignore, and most people do. It is essential to get an evaluation before your symptoms progress into something more serious.
2. Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are enlarged and bulging veins that typically appear on your legs and feet. It is this stage where most people become mildly concerned. For some, varicose veins do not accompany any swelling of the legs or pain but for others, there is a nagging pain that becomes frustrating and uncomfortable.
Symptoms associated with varicose veins are:
- Bulging dark purple veins
- Veins that look twisted or tangled
- Aches and a heaviness in the legs
- Burning legs or itchy legs
- Increased pain after standing for a prolonged period
- Bleeding or leaking veins
- Veins that change colors
- Hardening of veins
- Inflammation and swelling of legs around varicose veins
If you experience a hardening of the veins or severe inflammation around that area, you should see a medical professional as these are the beginning symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency disease (CVI).
Possible causes of varicose veins include:
- Age – As we age our veins lose their ability to expand and contract so, they become stretched out. As a result, the valves in the veins weaken, and blood flows backward. Blood then sits in the veins instead of flowing smoothly throughout causing that deep purple color of deoxygenated blood.
- Pregnancy. When you are pregnant the amount of blood in the body increases, but the flow of blood from your legs to your pelvis decreases so help support the fetus. As a result, you deal with enlarged veins in your legs.
- Quick weight gain and hormonal imbalance also play a significant role in varicose veins for pregnant women. Sometimes the varicose veins go away on their own after delivery, but it is still important to get tests done to determine the cause of your varicose veins.
3. Swelling of Legs and Ankles
Along with varicose veins often comes swelling of the legs and ankles. When you experience inflammation in your legs, it usually has to do with the circulation of the blood throughout your body.
Due to varicose veins, blood is pooling up in the veins in your legs, and one of the significant symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency disease is swelling of the legs and ankles.
The inflammation can usually be relieved by raising your legs above your heart, and this helps circulate the blood to your heart from your legs after prolonged periods sitting or standing the problem most likely resets itself, and you are back to swelling in the legs.
Symptoms accompanying inflammation in the legs:
- Tightness in your calves or ankles
- Itchy Legs
- Numbness and tenderness around varicose veins
- Pain when walking
- Brown leathery like the skin around varicose veins
- Restless leg syndrome
- Muscle spasms
- Leg ulcers
Many of these symptoms are some of the first signs of CVI so if you have varicose veins and swelling it is crucial to get a diagnosis to prevent the problem from becoming worse.
Possible causes of leg and ankle swelling:
- Chronic venous insufficiency disease
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Lack of exercise
- Deep vein thrombosis
4. Skin Discoloration (Lipodermatosclerosis)
The fourth stage of vein disease is a discoloration of the skin around the site of varicose veins. The skin may become brown and take on a rough leathery texture. The skin takes on this discoloration become the fatty tissue underneath the skin becomes inflamed.
At this stage, there is likely to be quite a bit of pain associated with your symptoms and the affected area is commonly itchy and highly irritated. The skin begins to crack and bleed at this point as well.
Symptoms of Lipodermatosclerosis are:
- Pain in legs and ankles
- Skin thickening and hardening around varicose veins
- Changes in skin color
- Skin takes on a leathery texture
- Swelling of legs and ankles
- Leg ulcers
- Legs tapering above the ankles
Outside of medical intervention, there is little you can do on your own to treat the skin discoloration. Compression is known to help or slow down the process, but the only way to truly fix your problem is to have a medical professional diagnose and treat your symptoms.
Causes of skin discoloration are:
- Vein disease
- Poor diet
- Heart disease
- Excessive standing
- Hormonal changes
5. Ulcers and Open Sores
An ulcer gets classified as a sore that continues opening back up and does not heal. These occur from the breakdown of skin tissue.
Skin ulcers are broken up into three different categories.
- Venous stasis
We are focusing on venous stasis ulcers because they account for 80 to 90 percent of ulcers and most go untreated.
At this stage, these ulcers get caused by chronic venous insufficiency. Blood is pooling up in your legs because the valves in your veins are not sending blood back to your heart correctly.
The ulcers form on the exterior of your skin due to excess pressure in your veins. Many doctors believe that this causes blood flow to your capillaries to decrease causing your white cell count to build up.
When there are excess white blood cells, the lack of oxygen in the blood decreases forming ulcers on the outside of the skin.
Symptoms of leg ulcers:
- Painful open sores on legs and ankles
- Burning legs
- Itching legs
- Leaking veins
- Yellow or green leaking fluid from sores
- Leg swelling
- Skin discoloration
- Aching or painful legs
- Tightness around ankles
Many of these complications are hereditary so if your family has a history of chronic venous insufficiency disease and you are experiencing any of these symptoms you are definitely at risk.
Factors such as obesity, diet, smoking and alcohol consumption also play a significant role in determining the severity of your situation.
By staying off your feet and raising your legs as much as possible, you can reduce the symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency disease, but you cannot stop them from happening.
Luckily, these complications are not life-threatening, and they are incredibly easy to treat, but you need to take the first step in securing your health and your future.