What is venous edema?
Edema is defined as a perceptible increase in the volume of fluid in the skin and subcutaneous tissue. Applying pressure on edema will leave an indentation that remains on the skin after the pressure is released.
Venous edema usually first occurs in the ankle region; it may also extend to the leg and foot.
What causes venous edema?
There are many causes of edema, such as standing or sitting for long periods of time, physical inactivity, chronic venous disease, lymphedema, heredity, pregnancy, surgery, and trauma.
Edemas of venous origin develop when venous valves don’t close properly and blood stagnates in the veins, thereby preventing the blood vessels from properly functioning.
For an affected person, there is often no visible difference between venous edema and lymphedema. In any case, if you experience swelling, you should visit your doctor for correct diagnosis and treatment.
What can I do about venous edema?
Your healthcare professional will examine your symptoms as well as the presence of varicose veins, trophic skin disorders or skin ulcers that may be associated with a venous disease.
By means of ultrasound, the doctor can visualize the blood flow and check if the development of your edema is associated with a venous disorder and if the superficial veins or the system of deep veins in your legs are affected.
Medical compression therapy: a non-invasive treatment
To help with venous edema, medical compression therapy is used as basic non-invasive treatment.
Your healthcare professional can prescribe medical compression stockings. The elastic material of the medical compression stocking provides an active pressure to the leg and gently squeezes the vein walls together.
The strongest pressure is applied at the ankle and decreases going upwards along the leg, thereby easing blood flow back towards the heart, reducing venous pressure, and improving overall circulation.
In some cases, a massage-like technique called Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) can help as well.
Edema can be a sign of a venous disorder.
Basic medical knowledge on venous disorders
- With the term Chronic Venous Disorder (CVD) we describe a long-standing condition involving impaired venous return.
- If vein valves don’t close properly, a reflux results: the blood leaks downwards and stagnates in the vein, thereby leading to venous hypertension. This condition is known as chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) which may cause edema, skin change, and, in some cases, ulcerations.
- If left untreated, chronic venous insufficiency can result in the formation of serious disorders, including phlebitis and pulmonary embolism. To distinguish the different manifestations of CVD, the CEAP classification system is used.
- Acute venous disorders usually occur without pre-existing conditions, but they can also be triggered by chronic venous disorders. In any case, medical treatment is immediately required. Acute venous disorders include superficial thrombophlebitis, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism, post-thrombotic syndrome, and variceal bleeding.