Subtle Signs of Vein Disease That People Don’t Recognize

Vein disease develops slowly, taking years or decades to become symptomatic. However, people still don’t recognize the early signs or get the right treatment until their disease reaches a critical point. Dr. Lev Khitin, who has specialized exclusively in veins for over a decade, said patients often come to him with festering ulcers and nearly crippled for lack of proper treatment.

This happens because of misdiagnosis and mistreatment or self-diagnosis and self-treatment, like it is described in the following case.

This patient, a 39-year-old otherwise healthy man, father of two, a construction worker, had over several years noticed increasing swelling of his ankles and feet, which he explained by standing up for long hours. Next, when the skin around areas of swelling had slowly turned brown, he felt it was from working outside in the cold. Finally, as his disease progressed he developed wounds of his ankles, failing to heal over the next several months despite all his efforts. Even at that time, he continued self-therapy while believing that vitamin deficiency and elevated blood thickness were responsible.

For over six years he had mainly treated himself with eating lots of garlic to “clear the infection inside,” he said; doing regular leech therapy to “thin his blood;” and drinking lots of water to “get the bad fluids out.” As time went by, his disease progressed, the wounds turn into chronic trophic ulcers, and he was barely able to walk. As a result, he lost his job, became depressed, separated and moved away from his wife and kids.

At this point he started seeking help from different doctors and other healthcare professionals, ranging from wound care centers, urgent care clinics to plastic surgeons and alternative healers, with no at all or short-term improvement, eventually followed by further deterioration of his disease. As the last resort, he came to Dr. Khitin, when an extensive diagnostic work up was performed to establish a condition responsible for his swelling, infection and trophic ulcers. That allowed him to isolate and target the underlying disease: venous insufficiency, upon successful treatment of which, the patient was able to recover completely. He return to his normal life: got back together with his family, and even opened a tiling business together with his brother.

Vein disorders affect around 25 percent of Americans and, Dr. Khitin said, about 60 percent of women over 60 have a condition called venous insufficiency, a precursor to serious vein problems.

Venous insufficiency is when the walls and valves of leg veins become defective and lose their ability to pull blood up to the heart. Blood then pools in the legs causing varicose and spider veins, pain, heaviness, tiredness, difficulties walking and standing, muscle cramps, restless leg syndrome, swelling, burning and many others. If left untreated, as the disease advances it leads to development of different complications, including trophic ulcers (non-healing wounds), infections, such as dermatitis and cellulitis, formation of blood clots, bleeding and some others. Far advanced vein disorders can lead to and even to cancer.

Vein Disorders: Early Signs to Watch For

  • Swelling: visible or feeling of legs and feet being swollen with no noticeable swelling seen
  • Brown pigmentation of the ankles and feet
  • Slow healing wounds of lower parts of legs and feet
  • Difficulty standing or sometimes walking and even sitting down
  • Difficulties starting walking, improving as you keep walking
  • Heaviness, tiredness and fatigue in the legs out of proportion with the rest of the body
  • A dull ache or deep discomfort in the legs, particularly with prolonged standing
  • Muscle cramps
  • Restless leg syndrome: difficulties finding comfortable position or need to move feet frequently
  • Repeated redness of the ankles, feet or calves
  • Itchiness with or without redness
  • Numbness, perception of “crawling” or “running water” under the skin
  • Feeling of pins and needles anywhere in the legs and feet
  • Perception of burning anywhere in the legs and feet

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