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If you are experiencing swelling in your legs and ankles, you may be suffering from venous stasis.
Venous stasis, or venostasis, refers to diminished blood flow in the veins of the legs and feet. The condition is characterized by enlarged veins, swelling, and accumulation of fluid in your lower legs.
If left untreated, the skin of your lower extremities will eventually break down, resulting in venous stasis ulcers. Patients with venous stasis are also more prone to developing blood clots, particularly in the deep veins of the legs.
Causes of venous stasis
Venous stasis is caused by an accumulation of excess fluid in the legs. This occurs when blood flow from the lower extremities to the heart is restricted. As a result, blood begins to pool and fluid begins to build up in the legs and feet, resulting in pain and severe swelling.
Venous stasis can occur following injury to the veins or following a blood clot. Swelling and fluid accumulation are also associated with certain medical conditions, including:
Pregnancy may also contribute to restricted blood flow to the extremities.
Venous stasis symptoms
Venous stasis is a progressive condition. Initially there may be swelling of your legs and ankles, as well as enlarged veins, or varicose veins. The accumulation of fluid causes a feeling of fullness in your legs and you may experience tiredness and aching, particularly when standing.
As blood continues to pool in your legs, skin can become stained from the inside, resulting in a change in pigmentation known as venous stasis dermatitis. In severe cases, skin will begin to stretch and lose its elasticity. Open wounds or sores can develop; these are known as venous stasis ulcers.
Venous stasis treatment
Treatment of venous stasis begins with rest and elevation of your feet and legs. The ideal position is to place your feet above the level of your heart. This allows for unrestricted blood flow from the legs back toward the heart.
To control swelling and fluid build-up, your doctor may recommend compression stockings of varying strengths or prescribe diuretics.
In severe cases, surgical removal of veins may be necessary. Treatment for advanced venous stasis may also include care of any open sores or wounds.