What Is May Thurner Syndrome?

By james
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We have several types of blood vessel in our body, and two of the main type are veins and arteries. Our arteries take blood away from the heart, and our veins allow our blood to make the return trip back to the heart again. This completes a circuit which allows the blood to collect fresh oxygen again so the body can continue to be supplied.

Veins and arteries can be found throughout the body, and they also feed fresh blood to our legs. As our veins and arteries travel through the body, there are junctions when they are close to each other. This close proximity will occasionally cause problems, including medical conditions like May Thurner syndrome.

1. What Is May-Thurner Syndrome?

May Thurner syndrome is a condition that is caused by two blood vessels being too close to each other. It involves the right iliac artery and the left iliac vein, which meet each other in the abdomen area. The condition tends to cause problems further down in the body, however.

The main supplier of blood to the right leg is the right iliac artery. Helping blood to flow away from the left leg and back to the heart is the left iliac vein. In May-Thurner syndrome, the right iliac vein is resting on top of the left iliac vein, causing enough pressure the limit the flow of blood.

2. Causes

May Thurner syndrome does not usually cause symptoms so it is difficult to know how many people even have it. It has been estimated that up to around 3% of people might have the condition. We are also not entirely sure of how or why it happens, but it has been linked with some factors.

People that develop May Thurner syndrome are usually between the ages of 20 and 40. Women are also twice as likely to develop the condition than men are. While it will usually cause no symptoms at all, it will develop into something more serious in some cases.

May Thurner Syndrome

3. Symptoms

As mentioned, the majority of people with May Thurner syndrome will not experience any symptoms. Some patients with the condition will experience some symptoms, however, due to the flow of blood being limited. When conditions do arise, they will typically include swelling and pain in the patient’s left leg.

The patient will also often find that walking can be painful, and their left leg is likely to feel warm to the touch. Skin can also become discolored, and the veins can become visibly larger. Ulcers are also more likely to develop for some patients. There is also a chance that the patient will develop deep vein thrombosis, which is can be somewhat more serious.

4. Deep Vein Thrombosis

May Thurner syndrome will mean that the flow of blood in the patient’s left leg is unable to flow freely back to the heart. The lack of blood flow can result in thrombosis, which is the formation of a thrombus, which is the technical medical term for a blood clot. A deep vein thrombosis in particular is usually found in the legs.

Deep vein thrombosis is a potentially very serious condition. It can cause some very unwelcome symptoms, while it can also lead to complications that can be life-threatening. It can usually be treated, but it is important that treatment is administered sooner rather than later.

May Thurner Syndrome

5. Deep Vein Thrombosis Symptoms

The symptoms of deep vein thrombosis are likely to be similar to the symptoms of May Thurner syndrome. They are also likely to be more severe, however. As before, pain in the leg is a common symptom and the leg is also likely to become considerably swollen as blood is unable to flow freely out of the leg.

The patient’s veins in their leg are going to be larger, larger even than in cases of May Thurner syndrome alone. The leg can feel heavy and it can be difficult for the patient to walk. Pelvic congestion syndrome may also develop in some women, and this can cause pain in the pelvic area.

6. Complications

As mentioned, deep vein thrombosis can result in some very serious complications in addition to the symptoms already mentioned. The main one being a pulmonary embolism, which is very serious indeed. It happens because sometimes the clot in the leg can become dislodged, where it can then travel to the pulmonary artery.

Once in the pulmonary artery, the clot can plug the artery, preventing blood from reaching the lungs. This leaves the body unable to get fresh oxygen from the air we breathe in a condition that is life-threatening. If a pulmonary embolism is suspected then the patient must be found medical assistance immediately.

May Thurner Syndrome

7. Who’s At Risk

As mentioned, women are more likely to develop May Thurner syndrome, while it is also more likely to happen in people in a certain age group. Other factors also make it more likely that May Thurner syndrome will develop into deep vein thrombosis. One such factor is when the patient spends long periods of time inactive.

Pregnancy is another potential cause, while people that have recently had surgery are also at a higher risk. Infections are likely to increase the risk as is cancer, and contraception pills can also increase somebody’s risk. People that fall into these categories should take extra care and get regular check-ups.

8. Diagnosis

May Thurner syndrome will often not be diagnosed because it causes no symptoms in most cases. If it is suspected, however, then your doctor is likely to perform a physical exam. Knowing your medical history can also be important when it comes to reaching a diagnosis. Further tests will also be needed to diagnose the condition.

A doctor will likely request the use of imaging technology that will help to see the structure of the patient’s blood vessels. This includes CT scans, MRI scans, ultrasounds, and venograms. Non-invasive techniques are performed where possible, but invasive methods might be needed in some cases.

May Thurner Syndrome

9. May-Thurner Syndrome Treatment

Treatment for May Thurner syndrome will tend to revolve around helping to improve the flow of blood through the affected veins. The treatment is intended to help reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis from developing, and to ease the patient’s symptoms to help make them more comfortable.

In some cases, an angioplasty might be used. This involves expanding the vein with a small balloon and then inserting a stent to help keep the vein open. Surgery might be used to help reposition the vein, while bypass surgery might also be used to help ensure the blood can flow freely.

10. Treatment for Deep Vein Thrombosis

The risks associated with deep vein thrombosis make it important that treatment is received as soon as possible. It is a treatable condition and treatment often involves medication. This can be medication that will help to dissolve the clot and the medication can be delivered by a catheter. Blood thinning medication can also be used to help ensure the blood can flow.

In some cases, a vena cava filter might be used. This is a type of filter that can help to catch any blood clots passing through the system before it can become lodged in a dangerous position. This method is only usually used when medication is not successful.

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