Types of venous disease
A tendency towards venous disease is hereditary, while hormonal influence (pregnancy, the pill), activities that require mainly sitting or standing for long periods of time, obesity and bad shoes demonstrably favour the incidence of vein problems. In Germany more than 50% of the population suffer at least a slight change of the venous system. Early diagnosis and rigorous treatment can alleviate existing complications and protect the patient against serious subsequent damage. However, if they remain untreated, they can cause serious suffering.
Spider veins are small, red or bluish looking veins, also called micro varicose veins, that lie just below the skin surface. They are a few millimetres or centimetres long, have a diameter of up to 1 millimetre and are often arranged in a fan-shaped structure. Spider veins in contrast to varicose veins are not a disease but usually only an aesthetic-cosmetic problem that can be corrected using a range of treatment options. However, they can also be a warning signal for varicose veins present just below. A visit to a physician can clarify the cause.
A varicose vein (varix) is an extended wildly weaving vein in the skin. It develops when the wall of the veins is distended too much so that the venous valves can no longer close and the blood congests. This results in so-called “phlebostasis”. In comparison with harmless spider veins, varicose veins are a real disease that without the correct treatment may have serious consequences, such as inflammation of the veins, chronically venous insufficiency, vascular occlusion etc. Timely therapy is therefore enormously important.
A thrombosis develops when a blood clot (a thrombus) forms on the vascular wall. This obstructs the veins, the venous valves no longer function and this prevents the blood from flowing back. The result is blood congestion. Most blood clots develop in the deep veins of the leg and pelvis and become apparent through sudden pain in the calves or swelling or a heavy feeling in the legs. A blood clot can develop into fatal pulmonary embolism. That is why it is absolutely essential to visit a physician at the first signs and pursue the matter. Risk factors are sitting for long periods of time (above all while travelling), varicose veins and an increased tendency towards blood clots following an operation or birth of a child.
Pulmonary embolism may occur as a result of a thrombosis. Here the blood clot detaches itself and is released into the blood stream and carried right into the minute branches of blood vessels in the lungs. It may happen that the blood clot is lodged there and disturbs the oxygen supply of the lungs. The result is pulmonary embolism. The lungs can no longer fully perform their original function. In some cases pulmonary embolism can lead to death.
Inflammation of the vein (phlebitis)
A frequent complication of pronounced varicose veins is the inflammation of a venous vessel (phlebitis). It is felt and seen as a painful, bright red and heated strand in the course of the varicose vein often accompanied by swelling. The cause are the blood clots in the superficial vein resulting from the inflammation.
An inflammation of the vein must receive immediate medical treatment, as it could otherwise grow and the blood clots could be embedded in the deep vein system. Untreated varicose veins can develop into chronically venous insufficiency with potential swelling and changes to the skin and even leg ulcers.
Long-lasting venous congestion may lead as a result of the undersupply of the affected tissue to devastating damage of the cells and to tissue necrosis. The result are long lasting open wounds.