Peripheral Venous Disease

Peripheral venous disease is a type of vascular disease which affects the veins that carry blood from the various organs of the body back to the heart. It occurs when these veins become damaged, defective or broken. The factors causing damage to the veins include:

  • Major injury to the walls of the veins

  • Surgery

  • Smoking

  • Obesity

  • Long period of bed rest or inactivity

  • Use of birth control pills

  • Cancer

  • History of peripheral venous disease

The most common factor causing peripheral venous disease is blood clots. Clots develop in those areas that have been weakened due to slower blood flow. A clot can be lodged in superficial veins (known as superficial vein thrombosis) or in deep veins (known as deep vein thrombosis). It can occur anywhere in the body, but the most commonly affected areas are the arms and legs. ​

The main symptoms of peripheral venous disease are: 

  • Pain in the affected areas, especially the arms and legs

  • Redness

  • Swelling 

  • Warmth on the skin in the affected areas

  • Hard patches on the skin

  • Soreness 

  • Fatigue

  • Fever​

Symptoms of peripheral venous disease can sometimes be confused for signs of ageing. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, be sure to contact your physician immediately as it may prove to be very dangerous, if ignored. Blood clots can sometimes travel to your lungs and cause an embolism (blockage) which can be very serious problem. If you are unsure about what your symptoms mean, the Heart, Lungs and Vascular team at The Aga Khan University Hospital will educate you about your options.  

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so makes sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

If your doctor suspects that you have peripheral venous disease, he/she will start by taking a detailed medical history and a physical exam including heart function, blood pressure and examining the skin on the affected area. Other tests may also be conducted to confirm the diagnosis. These include:

  • Doppler ultrasound: In this procedure, high frequency sound waves are used to create images of your body. It is a non-invasive and painless procedure. Your doctor will check the blood flow in your vessels for abnormalities. 

  • Blood tests: Your doctor will want to check for diseases such as high cholesterol and diabetes, which are contributing factors to peripheral venous disease.

  • Venography: This is a type of X-ray in which a dye is injected into your vein and a device called a catheter is inserted into your arm or leg. The dye produces image which will allow your doctor to examine for clots or other signs of peripheral venous disease. This is an invasive procedure and is only used if necessary. 

  • Nuclear venography: This procedure is similar to venography. A radioactive substance is injected into your blood vessel to produce an X-ray image. This is a long and invasive procedure (usually takes about two hours) and you will need to rest while lying on your back for two hours afterwards.

  • VQ (Ventilation–perfusion) scan: This is a procedure to test for presence of blood clots in the lungs. A catheter is inserted into your blood vessel in the arm or leg, with a small camera attached to it to take a picture. This is also a long procedure (usually takes an hour or more) during which you have to lie on your back.

  • CT (Computerized Tomography) venography/magnetic resonance venography. 

Peripheral venous disease can often be cured by simply changing your lifestyle. Regular exercise is recommended for patients with Peripheral venous disease. It helps to improve blood flow in your veins and prevent them from being damaged and/or narrowing further. Medication may be prescribed in cases where blood clots have developed. This includes medicines to improve blood flow and ease pain in the limbs. If you are a high risk patient your doctor may recommend the use of blood thinning medication.

If you have other diseases such as high blood pressure or diabetes, your doctor may recommend medicines to treat these symptoms as well. To treat blood clots, your doctor can choose to treat you with a procedure known as Thrombolysis. During this procedure liquid medication is injected directly into the blood clot which causes the clot to shrink over time. 

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments' costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

​​The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.