Venous stasis is comprised of two words that mean “veins” and “stands.” It refers to a condition in which blood pools, or “stands,” in the large veins of the legs. The condition can be the result of venous insufficiency. So, what is venous stasis and how is it treated? We explain more below.
Venous Stasis Causes & Symptoms
As mentioned above, venous stasis occurs when blood pools in the large veins, either because the valves in the veins aren’t functioning properly or due to other physical conditions. The pressure this causes inside the veins pushes the blood into the smaller veins, called venules, and then into even smaller vessels such as capillaries. Eventually, the venules and capillaries rupture and the blood leaks into the surrounding tissue.
The body reacts to this blood in the tissue by causing inflammation, swelling and redness that can look like a rash or a bruise. To try and remove the blood, the body recruits additional white blood cells into the inflamed area. This creates a disturbance in the tissue architecture, known as venous stasis dermatitis, which causes:
- Redness in the skin, seen as “cellulitis” or “rash” by some observers.
- Scarring of the soft tissue and skin. This manifests as a hardness that can be seen and felt, often in the shin, inner ankle and midway through the calf.
- Brownish discoloration of the area as the iron (from hemoglobin) in the tissue gets scarred in after other blood components are reabsorbed by the body.
- Burning, itchiness, pain and swelling.
Without definitive treatment, the area with the venous stasis becomes increasingly fragile and vulnerable to bumps and scratches. This can cause an open wound, known as a venous stasis ulcer. These open sores have a high rate of recurrence and are difficult to treat. The majority of leg ulcers treated by wound care specialists are the result of venous stasis.
Treatment for Venous Stasis
The treatment for venous stasis requires closure of the large veins in which the blood is refluxing. We typically use a combination of endovenous laser treatment (EVLT) and ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy.
During the EVLT procedure, we use heat to close off the inside of the large veins being treated. We perform the procedure in our office using a local anesthetic to numb the targeted veins. We often supplement the procedure with sclerotherapy, during which we inject an FDA-approved drug solution into smaller varicose veins that are affected.
If the venous stasis has progressed to the ulcer stage, aggressive wound care is required, including external compression using Unna boot, a zinc-impregnated multilayer wrap.
After treatment, the closed veins remain in your leg and are eventually partially absorbed by your body. Venous ulcers will heal with proper wound care and external compression therapy. If you had discoloration of the area prior to the procedure, it may lighten over time, but may not disappear completely. Symptom resolution varies for patients based on their individual health and the severity of their condition, but we see significant improvement in pain, swelling and discomfort in more than 80% of patients. You also decrease your future chances of blood clots, bleeding, venous stasis dermatitis, leg ulcers, varicose and spider veins.
A recent multi-center randomized clinical trial showed early treatment of venous leg ulcers results in a significantly shorter time for wound healing.
Don’t Put Off Treatment
The earlier we can diagnose vein conditions, the more effectively we can treat them, so don’t ignore symptoms. If you suffer from leg pain, heaviness, swelling, cramping or discoloration, contact us to schedule a consultation. We’ll evaluate the underlying causes of the problem and develop a personalized treatment plan that will get you feeling better.