May-Thurner Syndrome: An Overview

Painful varicose and spider veins on woman's legsMay-Thurner Syndrome is an illness brought about by an anatomical variant, which means that the 20% of the population who have it are just born with it. Most of these people have no idea they have the disorder until they receive a diagnosis of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). It is important to know the signs of DVT to know when to treat May-Thurner Syndrome.

What is May-Thurner Syndrome?

May-Thurner Syndrome is a venous disease where the right iliac artery compresses the left iliac vein because of an anatomic variation. As blood flows through the artery, it applies pressure onto the left iliac vein which then narrows, slowing blood flow through the vessel. Blood then pools at the area of compression and is more likely to form a clot. The left iliac vein is a deep vein; hence a blood clot in this area becomes a DVT, which may be recurrent despite treatment with blood thinners.

This syndrome is most common in young and middle-aged women, and the risks are higher if the patient is pregnant, taking contraceptives, or has an underlying clotting problem.

What are the Symptoms of May-Thurner Syndrome?

Doctors often only diagnose May-Thurner Syndrome when the patient develops thrombosis since May-Thurner syndrome itself does not produce any symptoms. Symptoms that might signal DVT are:

  • Pain and swelling in the leg
  • Redness and warmth of the leg
  • Large, bulging veins (varicosities) in the leg
  • Discoloration of the skin in the leg

If a person experiences any of these symptoms, he should seek immediate health advice from a professional. A DVT may be seemingly benign, but if the clot loosens and travels to a vital organ such as the heart or lungs, it could block the blood supply to that organ and can be life threatening.