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Understanding May-Thurner Syndrome

While you can probably rattle off a list of types of heart disease, most people aren’t as familiar with vascular diseases, such as peripheral artery disease or vasculitis

One vascular condition you may not have heard of yet is May-Thurner syndrome, a potentially dangerous condition that involves the veins and arteries in your hips and legs. 

Learn more about May-Thurner syndrome from Dr. Hesham Fakhri, our expert cardiovascular physician at Vein, Heart and Vascular Institute in Tampa and Wesley Chapel, Florida.

What is May-Thurner syndrome?

May-Thurner syndrome is also known as iliac vein compression syndrome, a blood-clotting condition that occurs when your left iliac vein gets compressed by your right iliac artery

Your iliac veins and arteries run throughout your pelvic region, and your left iliac vein is the main vein in your left leg. Your iliac artery is the main artery running through your right leg. 

A quick anatomy primer: Arteries send blood from your heart to the rest of your body, while veins take blood back to your heart. When your right iliac artery rests on your left iliac vein, it can cause pressure that results in abnormal blood flow. 

This leads to symptoms much like those of varicose veins in the legs, including:

But many people with May-Thurner syndrome don’t have any symptoms, especially if the condition doesn’t progress to deep vein thrombosis.

Causes of May-Thurner syndrome

While the direct cause of May-Thurner syndrome is known (right iliac artery resting on the left iliac vein), doctors aren’t entirely sure what causes the artery and vein to overlap. There are some risk factors that seem to be common, though, including: 

Dangers of May-Thurner syndrome

While May-Thurner syndrome on its own isn’t always dangerous, it can lead to complications. The compression of the left iliac vein increases your risk of deep vein thrombosis, which occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein deep inside your body. 

If left untreated, a deep blood clot can break into fragments and travel to your lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism.  A pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening so it’s important not to let May-Thurner syndrome get to that point.

Come in for a visit at Vein, Heart and Vascular Institute if you have any questions about May-Thurner syndrome or cardiovascular health in general. Call us for an appointment at our office in Tampa or Wesley Chapel, Florida. You can also request an appointment by using our online tool.

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