Definition - what is venous insufficiency?
Veins are the blood vessels that carry blood from all parts of the body back to the heart. The blood that comes out of the legs, for example, has to be pumped up against gravity towards the heart. This no longer works adequately with weak veins. The blood builds up in the legs, which manifests itself in the form of varicose veins or swelling of the legs.
Find out more about the topic on our website: Vein problems.
Causes of a weak vein
The most common cause of venous weakness is a loss of function of the venous valves.
With each heartbeat, the blood is pumped back up from the legs towards the heart. There are venous valves so that the blood does not flow back towards the feet. Like a valve, they close after each stroke and only allow the blood to flow in one direction. For the superficial veins in the legs, this is the only way to prevent the blood from flowing back. If the venous valves no longer close completely, some blood can always flow back and blood builds up in the legs. The veins widen, the legs swell, and the blood also piles up in small side branches, making the veins tangled.
The loss of function of the venous valves occurs in most cases in connection with some risk factors. These include, for example, weak connective tissue, which often occurs in women, especially after pregnancy or due to family inheritance.
Other risk factors are high body weight and occupational activities that often involve standing or sitting for long periods of time. In addition to the loss of function of the venous valves, the cause of a weak vein can also be an obstruction of the blood flow. This can result, for example, from a thrombosis, i.e. a narrowing of the blood vessels caused by deposits. Here, too, the blood can no longer be sufficiently transported back to the heart and therefore builds up in the legs.
How to recognize a thrombosis early: Detect thrombosis
Accompanying symptoms of a weak vein
The accompanying symptoms of venous weakness arise from the build-up of blood in the legs. The legs swell up, become heavy and tire more easily.
There may be a feeling of tension, itching or pain, in the form of leg cramps. Since the return flow to the heart is more difficult when standing and sitting than when lying down, the symptoms usually worsen over the course of the day and have reached their pain maximum in the evening.
In contrast, the pain improves quickly when the legs are raised. The blood that has "sunk" in the veins of the legs also accumulates in the small branches of the veins. This leads to small spider veins that shimmer through the skin like thin spider webs.
Large protruding varicose veins can also occur.
In addition, when the pressure in the veins is high, fluid leaks from the blood into the tissue. As a result, pools of water, also known as edema, form, which are usually found on the ankles. When it is warm, the veins expand and more blood can collect in them. This can also make the pain worse.
Learn more about this:
- Spider Veins - Causes, Treatment, and Possible Risks
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Edema with a weak vein
Edema is the accumulation of fluid in the tissue that can arise for various reasons.
Weak veins can also lead to edema in the lower legs and ankles. This leads to a build-up of blood in the leg veins. Although these vessels are elastic, they can only hold a certain amount of blood. If the pressure inside the veins becomes too high due to the build-up of blood, fluid escapes from the vessels. It accumulates in the surrounding tissue. Since the flow of fluid is also subject to gravity, leg edema usually occurs on the ankles.
More information on this topic: Edema in the leg
Pain when veins are weak
Pain is common with weak veins.
These can appear in the form of a feeling of tension in the lower legs or in the form of leg cramps. Since the build-up of blood in the legs increases when standing for a long time, during the day or at high temperatures, pain occurs more often, especially in the legs.
Persistent pain can be a sign that the condition is getting worse. A slight weakness in veins has no disease value except for the cosmetic aspect. However, if the disease worsens, it can turn into chronic venous insufficiency. Therefore, if the pain persists, your family doctor should clarify whether there is a need for treatment.
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Itching with weak veins
Itching can appear as a symptom of venous weakness.
It is a sign of the irritation of the leg veins caused by the build-up of blood. In addition, fluid leaks from the leg veins, which can lead to a feeling of tension and itching. Furthermore, weak veins can be accompanied by an inflammatory reaction that manifests itself in the form of swelling, reddening, pain and itching. The itching usually only affects the lower leg and, in the case of severe discomfort, the feet as well.
Brown spots on the skin
Brown spots can appear as symptoms of venous insufficiency in the early and late stages.
They are cosmetically noticeable, but not dangerous. At the onset of the disease, the irritation of the veins and the increased permeability cause more bruises to appear, which - when they are broken down by the body - appear brown. In later stages, spots appear on the skin that shimmer brown to yellow through the surface. These spots are caused by the breakdown of substances that are important for the storage of iron. When it is broken down, iron is released and this is how the brown color develops. The spots are called purpura jaune d'ocre.
Diagnosing venous insufficiency
Due to the good development of the ultrasound, venous function tests, in which the veins are assessed, for example by congestion in the legs, are only very rarely used. The most important examination for diagnosing a venous insufficiency is the so-called Doppler sonography. This is an ultrasound scan that shows the flow of blood in the veins. This shows whether enough blood is flowing towards the heart and how much blood can flow back through the venous valves.
There is also the option of performing a venography. This is an X-ray examination in which the blood vessels become visible through a contrast medium. However, since an X-ray always involves radiation exposure, it is used if thrombosis of the leg veins has to be ruled out.
Read more about: X-ray exposure to radiation
Treatment of weak veins
There are various options for treating weak veins.
A doctor should decide what type of therapy is needed based on the severity of the condition. In the case of mild complaints, therapy with compression stockings and local cold treatments is usually sufficient. In addition, lymphatic drainage is often used for weak veins.
If the blood is already backing up in smaller veins, these can be closed therapeutically. For this purpose, a liquid that is toxic to the tissue is given into the respective vein. The tissue is damaged as a result and forms a scar that closes the vein. If the venous weakness is more pronounced, it may be necessary to obliterate the larger veins. This should ensure that the blood no longer builds up in the legs and normal blood flow can be restored. The sclerosing can be done using laser therapy or so-called radio frequency obliteration. Another therapy option is an operation in which the diseased vein sections are removed. This can also restore proper blood flow. Surgery is performed when there are severe symptoms, complications, or for cosmetic reasons.
You might also be interested in: Remove varicose veins - when do you have to resort to surgery?
Homeopathy for weak veins
There are some homeopathic remedies that can be used for chronic venous insufficiency depending on the type and severity of the symptoms.
For example, varicose veins can be treated with Aesculus or Acidum hydrofluoricum. If the affected veins become inflamed, Melilotus officinalis is more likely to be used. Flor de piedra can help with severely swollen legs and itching.
In general, it is very important that a doctor is consulted in the event of long-lasting, severe symptoms.
For more information, see: Homeopathy for varicose veins
Which home remedies can help with weak veins?
Some home remedies can help with venous weakness.
This can be, for example, tight wrapping of the legs, bandages or compression stockings. They compress the veins that have been enlarged by the build-up of blood, thus promoting the closure of the venous valves and the correct flow of blood.
Cold rising from your feet can also help. In cold temperatures, the blood vessels automatically contract to lose less heat. This mechanism can help improve blood flow from the legs to the heart. For example, you can take a cold shower or bathe your legs in cold water starting from the foot.
It is also important to ensure sufficient movement and to avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time.
Does horse chestnut help with weak veins?
Horse chestnuts belong to the natural medicinal plants and can be helpful for complaints of weak veins.
When ingested with food, their ingredients cause some changes in the body. For example, the veins contract more and hold more tension. Horse chestnuts counteract the expansion of the leg veins. In addition, the vessel is sealed so that less blood flows back into the legs and builds up there.
Which doctor treats the venous weakness?
If there is a suspicion of weak veins, the family doctor can be seen first.
This assesses the severity of the disease and sees whether there is a need for therapy. Therapy can be ordered by your family doctor, especially for minor complaints. If the venous weakness is severe or if surgical therapy is needed, the family doctor can refer the patient to a vein specialist called a phlebologist.
Can a weak vein be curable?
If a venous weakness is caused by a blockage of the drainage that is quickly cleared, a cure can be brought about.
On the other hand, a weakness of the venous valves is usually caused by many factors. For example, the stability of the connective tissue plays a role, which unfortunately can only be influenced poorly. It is therefore very difficult to cure weak veins. However, with the exception of the cosmetic aspect, it has no disease content if it is mild.
If it is recognized early, rapid progression and worsening of the disease can be prevented. It is particularly important to eliminate other risk factors such as being overweight or lack of exercise. This can also alleviate the symptoms of weak veins. If an operation or obliteration of the veins is carried out in the case of pronounced weak veins, this often improves the problems. As a result, patients feel a sense of healing from the disease. This feeling can be maintained through conscious behavior such as a lot of movement and the wearing of compression stockings.
For more information, see:
- When do varicose veins have to be surgically removed?
Will a weak vein reduce my life expectancy?
In the vast majority of cases, a weak vein does not reduce the life expectancy of the patient.
The discomfort and symptoms in the legs can be very uncomfortable, but usually do not cause any significant harm to the rest of the body. If the venous weakness turns into chronic venous insufficiency, serious complications can occur in the later stages. This includes, for example, the leg ulcer. This is a wound that occurs on the leg. If the care is very poor, it can lead to blood poisoning, which can be fatal if the therapy is poor.
Another dangerous complication is deep vein thrombosis. If a blood clot becomes detached here and is carried into the lungs, it is called a pulmonary embolism, which can also be fatal. It is important to know that both cases occur only very rarely and with already existing serious diseases of the venous system. In addition, several risk factors must come together for the development of a life-threatening complication.
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- The open leg - the dangers of leg ulcers
Can you influence a weak vein through diet?
A weak vein can be influenced by diet.
Obesity, in particular, is an important risk factor that can lead to weak veins. With a heavy weight there is more pressure on the legs and a lot of work has to be done to pump the blood back up from the legs. This promotes a build-up of blood in the legs and the veins expand. Therefore, one should pay attention to one's diet and, if necessary, lose weight.
A lot of fiber, lots of fruit and vegetables are important for a varied and balanced diet. In addition, fish should be eaten rather than meat and fatty and sweet foods should be avoided. This diet provides all the necessary vitamins and trace elements that the body needs to build strong connective tissue.
In addition, proper nutrition can inhibit inflammatory processes, which lead to an exacerbation of venous weakness. Particularly good unsaturated fatty acids are helpful here. They are found in olive oil, nuts and avocado, for example. Antioxidants also counteract inflammation. They include vitamins A, C and E. Their combination in natural foods is very healthy. It is important to note, however, that unless there is a confirmed vitamin deficiency, no food supplements should be taken if the veins are weak.
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Vein weakness and the pill - are they compatible?
The pill is a drug that contains sex hormones and thus influences the hormonal balance of the whole body.
As in pregnancy, taking the pill can lead to changes in the body and thus to water retention. In addition, the stability of the blood vessels and the formation of blood clots are dependent on the body's hormonal balance.
Because of this, the pill can weaken the veins in the legs and cause deep vein thrombosis. A deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that settles on the blood vessel wall of the legs. It is dangerous because it prevents blood flow to the heart and if it becomes detached it can be carried to the lungs. There it leads to an interruption in the blood supply. If there is an existing weak vein, it can be made worse by taking the pill. On the other hand, the risk of deep vein thrombosis is also increased with weak veins. Thus, with the combination of venous insufficiency and the pill, the risk of thrombosis increases further.
Nevertheless, there are a few other risk factors, such as obesity or smoking, that contribute to the development of a deep vein thrombosis. Therefore, one cannot generally say that the weak veins are not compatible with the pill. Talk to the gynecologist should always be sought. Based on the severity of the venous weakness and any complications that have already occurred, the doctor can then decide whether the pill should be taken or not.
Read more about:
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Thrombosis while taking the pill