Arterial vs. Venous Vascular Conditions: A Guide to Recognition and Management

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Studies show that 40% of the U.S. population suffers from chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), a condition affecting the veins and potentially leading to varicose veins, swelling, and skin infection.

Have you ever wondered how your veins impact your leg health? Varicose veins could indicate a more complex problem. Ellison Vein Institute offers some insights into vascular diseases and why you should look for vein issues. 

Vascular Diseases

Various types of vascular diseases may manifest in the legs, and addressing them promptly is important to prevent potential complications. Early intervention is key to ensuring optimal vein health and overall well-being. Here are some conditions to address:

  • Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD): Chronic narrowing or blockage in arteries can lead to cramps, pain, sores, and even ulcers. Severe cases may necessitate amputation.
  • Pelvic Congestion Syndrome (PCS): Blood pooling in the pelvis can extend to the lower extremities, highlighting the interplay between pelvic and leg health.
  • May-Thurner Syndrome (MTS): Compression of the left common iliac vein by the right common iliac artery restricts blood circulation from the legs.
  • Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI): Failure or degradation of vein valves results in symptoms like varicose veins. Our specialized care targets CVI intricacies.
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): Blood clot formation in deep veins poses a life-threatening risk, requiring urgent intervention.
  • Post-Thrombotic Syndrome (PTS): Following DVT or trauma, damaged vein valves lead to blood pooling. 

Vascular Disease: Arterial or Venous?

Vascular diseases involve damage to the blood vessels in various vessels. The damage can impact blood circulation, lowering healing capabilities and general leg health.

Your vascular system ensures the proper transport of oxygen and other nutrients to all body parts. This system is typically broken down into two main groups:

  • Arteries carry oxygenated blood away from your heart.
  • Veins carry this blood back to the heart so it can be recirculated.

Along with a comprehensive physical exam, healthcare providers also look at risk factors, including:

  • Arterial risk factors - smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. A patient who smokes and has diabetes is eight times more likely to have an arterial disease.
  • Venous risk factors - Obesity, genetics, multiple pregnancies.
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Signs & Symptoms of Vascular Disease

Various diseases can impact the vascular system, and although many are not immediately life-threatening, seeking medical advice is important if you experience relevant symptoms. In the feet or legs, common symptoms include:

Arterial Symptoms:

  • Coldness in the feet
  • Numbness in legs and feet
  • Tingling in legs and feet, especially when walking

Venous Symptoms:

  • Fatigue in the lower extremities
  • Visible varicose veins
  • Leg swelling
  • Leg heaviness
  • Leg pain during exertion

Additional symptoms of potential vascular disease involve:

  • Pain during walking or exercising
  • Pain when resting across the top of the foot and toes (worsens when feet are elevated)
  • Ulcers 
  • Discolored feet
  • Feet swelling
  • Difficulty moving toes and flexing feet
  • Low or no pulse in the foot
  • Sensations of numbness or tingling

Peripheral vascular disease, or peripheral artery disease, progresses gradually, and if left untreated, it can worsen, diminishing your quality of life.

Risk Factors

Your lifestyle choices influence the health of your vascular system, and there are significant risk factors to consider:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Age

To prevent or minimize the impact of vascular disease, the initial approach involves reducing these risk factors by:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Managing diabetes and maintaining foot care
  • Taking medication to lower high blood pressure
  • Using medication and adjusting your diet to reduce cholesterol levels
  • Losing weight, limiting alcohol consumption, and engaging in exercise can counteract the effects of aging.
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Vascular Disease Complications

Peripheral vascular disease can impact your overall health. The ramifications of blocked arteries and veins can be life-threatening. 

Foot vascular disease increases the likelihood of developing or experiencing:

  • Cardiovascular disease: Linked to clogged arteries and veins
  • Critical limb ischemia: A severe condition with inadequate blood flow to the limbs.

Are There Treatment Options for Vascular Disease?

Treatment options include:

Lifestyle Changes:

  • Quitting smoking is important to improve vascular health. Nicotine constricts blood vessels, leading to plaque deposits and restricted blood flow.
  • Regular exercise, even if your feet hurt, is recommended. Walking with a stop-and-start approach can be beneficial. Your physician may suggest supervised exercise.


  • Medications may be prescribed based on your specific conditions:
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs
  • Medications to reduce the risk of blood clots
  • Pain management, if needed
  • Antibiotics for infections, such as foot ulcers


  • Minimally invasive procedures like atherectomy, stenting, angioplasty, and venoplasty aim to remove blockages or improve blood flow using specialized devices.
  • In more severe cases, surgery may involve a catheter or more invasive methods, such as a bypass operation, to address issues like removing blockages, increasing blood vessel diameter, reinforcing vessel walls, or providing alternative routes for blood flow.

Lifestyle Recommendations:

  • Stop smoking to enhance overall health.
  • Increase physical activity, even if it starts with walking.
  • Adopt healthy habits: maintain a balanced diet, reduce alcohol intake, ensure adequate sleep, and manage weight.

Are you ready to prioritize your vein health? Schedule an appointment today with one of our vein specialists and begin your journey to healthier legs. 

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