The Heart and Vascular Disease
Raynaud's Phenomenon (Also Called Raynaud's Disease or Raynaud's Syndrome)
Raynaud's phenomenon consists of spasms of the small arteries of the fingers and sometimes the toes, brought on by exposure to cold or excitement. Certain occupational exposures bring on Raynaud's. The episodes produce temporary lack of blood supply to the area, causing the skin to appear white or bluish and cold or numb. In some cases, the symptoms of Raynaud's may be related to underlying diseases (ie, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma).
Buerger's disease most commonly affects the small and medium sized arteries, veins, and nerves. Although the cause is unknown, there is a strong association with tobacco use or exposure. The arteries of the arms and legs become narrowed or blocked, causing lack of blood supply (ischemia) to the fingers, hands, toes, and feet. Pain occurs in the arms, hands and, more frequently, the legs and feet, even when at rest. With severe blockages, the tissue may die (gangrene), requiring amputation of the fingers and toes.
Superficial vein inflammation and symptoms of Raynaud's occur commonly in patients with Buerger's disease.
Peripheral Venous Disease
Veins are flexible, hollow tubes with flaps inside called valves. When your muscles contract, the valves open and blood moves through the veins. When your muscles relax, the valves close, keeping blood flowing in one direction through the veins.
If the valves inside your veins become damaged, the valves may not close completely. This allows blood to flow in both directions. When your muscles relax, the valves inside the damaged vein(s) will not be able to hold the blood. This can cause pooling of blood or swelling in the veins. The veins bulge and appear as ropes under the skin. The blood begins to move more slowly through the veins, it may stick to the sides of the vessel walls and blood clots can form.
Varicose veins are bulging, swollen, purple, ropy veins, seen just under your skin, caused by damaged valves within the veins. They are more common in women than men and often run in families. They can also be caused by pregnancy, being severely overweight, or by standing for long periods of time. The symptoms of varicose veins include:
- Bulging, swollen, purple, ropy, veins seen under the skin
- Spider veins -- small red or purple bursts on your knees, calves, or thighs, caused by swollen capillaries (small blood vessels)
- Aching, stinging, or swelling of the legs at the end of the day
Blood Clots in the Veins
Blood clots in the veins are usually caused by:
- Long bed rest and/or immobility
- Damage to veins from injury or infection
- Damage to the valves in the vein, causing pooling near the valve flaps
- Pregnancy and hormones (such as estrogen or birth control pills)
- Genetic disorders that increase your risk for clotting
- Conditions causing slowed blood flow or thicker blood, such as congestive heart failure (CHF), or certain tumors
- Surgery, particularly some procedures on the lower extremities
There are many types of blood clots that can occur in the veins:
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot occurring in a deep vein.
- Pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that breaks loose from a vein and travels to the lungs.
- Chronic venous insufficiency isn't a blood clot, but a condition that occurs when damaged vein valves or a DVT causes long-term pooling of blood and swelling in the legs. If uncontrolled, fluid will leak into the surrounding tissues in the ankles and feet, and may eventually cause skin breakdown and ulceration.