Symptoms of Venous Stasis
The earliest and most basic symptom of venous stasis is swelling in your legs and ankles. This swelling, called edema, can be thought of as water retention. Healthy veins help draw out and remove water from your extremities; veins affected by venous stasis are unable to remove that water from the tissues effectively. Therefore, venous stasis causes edema. In its early stages, edema is usually painless. However, the edema of venous stasis can become uncomfortable and even painful. Over time, the swelling and fluid retention can lead to feelings of fatigue, exhaustion, and achiness in your legs, particularly while you are standing.
The development of varicose and spider veins is commonly associated with venous stasis. People with venous stasis may also notice enlarged veins in their feet and legs.
If left untreated, venous stasis could result in brown spots on legs and feet, stasis dermatitis or venous stasis ulcers. Venous stasis ulcers are depressed lesions (open sores) on the skin, which are extremely tender to the touch and take a very long time to heal. Stasis dermatitis is a skin inflammation that results in an eczema-like rash, unrelenting itchiness, swelling, and redness. The lesions can “weep” clear fluid or leave the skin scaly and dry.
What Causes Venous Stasis?
Blood flow reversing down the leg causes venous stasis. Stasis may have to do with poorly functioning valves in the veins, which then struggle to pump blood back up toward the heart. As blood pools in the feet and legs, fluids build up in the tissue.
Pooling blood can cause pain and severe swelling. In some people, venous stasis develops after a blood clot or after an injury to their veins. Standing for long periods of time can also increase your risk of developing venous stasis, as can obesity and prolonged periods of inactivity.
Venous Stasis Treatment
One of the most fundamental ways to treat venous stasis is to rest on your back with your legs elevated. Resting reduces the strain on the valves in your leg veins and facilitates the return of blood to your body center and heart. Compression stockings are also an essential component of effective therapy. Compression stockings (specifically gradient compression stockings) help reduce and prevent the pooling of blood in superficial veins and promote normal venous blood flow.1 It is important to note that, non-gradient compression such as ACE bandages can make venous stasis worse. A vein specialist can help you select the proper compression stocking for venous stasis treatment.
In some cases, minimally invasive vein treatment is the only effective treatment for venous stasis. A vein specialist can provide consultation and treatment options for venous stasis and related conditions.
- Vanscheidt W, Ukat A, Partsch H. Dose-response of compression therapy for chronic venous edema–higher pressures are associated with greater volume reduction: two randomized clinical studies. J Vasc Surg. Feb 2009;49(2):395-402, 402 e391. doi:10.1016/j.jvs.2008.08.070
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