May-Thurner Syndrome is a vascular condition (one that affects the blood vessels) that can affect your legs. It is most common in the left leg. Your blood vessels (arteries, veins, and capillaries) are responsible for ensuring that all body tissues are well supplied with blood. This ensures that these tissues are well-nourished. To work properly, these blood vessels need to be open, smooth, and malleable to the slight fluctuations in blood flow and pressure. Disruption of such occurrences, and more, can be dangerous. To fully understand the complications of such occurrences, read about May-Thurner Syndrome at Center for Vascular Medicine.

A basic premise of good blood supply to any limb or body tissue is that the blood vessels are not blocked or impeded by anything. In the body, arteries usually take blood from the heart to the rest of the body while veins do the opposite. The veins responsible for bringing blood from the lower limbs back to the heart are the iliac veins. There are two of them; the left and right iliac veins. In the May-Thurner Syndrome, a neighboring artery compresses the left iliac vein, leading to narrowing of its lumen (the space through which blood passes). Needless to say, this is not an ideal situation for the body. This can result in complications.

To fully understand these complications, it’s important to be familiar with certain terms. These include:

i)Thrombosis: This is the process of blood clots forming within the blood vessels. Usually, the body’s clotting mechanism enables blood clotting to prevent bleeding. However, this should only occur outside the blood vessels, not within it. A clot that forms within the blood vessels is called a thrombus.

ii) Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): This is the blood clot that forms within a vein. Usually, this is a deep vein in the lower extremities but it can also occur in other parts of the body.

iii) Varicose Veins: This is when a vein becomes abnormally large and twisted. While this can happen to virtually any vein in the body, varicose veins usually occur in the calf region of the leg, manifesting as knotty protrusions on the calf muscles.

iv) Embolism: This is when a piece of biological material within the body breaks off and enters blood circulation. This can be a thrombus, a bone fragment, a large air bubble, etc. Such a piece of material travels through blood circulation and gets lodged somewhere in a tissue or organ. 

This causes a blockage, hence gradual death of the affected tissue or organ if not corrected. The piece of material or air bubble that causes this is called an embolus.

Causes of May-Thurner Syndrome

Several conditions can result in some people developing this rare condition. These include:




iv) Sedentary lifestyle

v) Blood transfusion reactions


Symptoms of May-Thurner Syndrome

The symptoms may not be obvious in some people. Such individuals are described as asymptomatic. In those that show, the symptoms can include;

i)Intense pain in the left leg or foot. The pain tends to become pronounced upon firm kneading of the muscles of the affected leg. The pain is accompanied by swelling that may or may not subside.

ii) Varicose veins on the left leg

iii) DVT in the left leg

Is May-Thurner Syndrome Fatal?

This condition can present serious health problems, especially in those who are initially asymptomatic. Deep vein thrombosis in and of itself is not fatal. However, its complication can kill. For example, when DVT occurs due to the May-Thurner syndrome, thromboembolism occurs( an embolus formation due to a thrombus breaking off). This thrombus can travel through the bloodstream to vital organs like the lungs, heart, brain, etc. When they block blood vessels in the lung, pulmonary embolism results. This manifests as sudden shortness of breath, intense chest pain, a rapid heart rate, among others. If the thrombus travels to the brain and blocks blood circulation, a stroke can occur. Both of these cases are medical emergencies that can result in sudden death if not addressed immediately.

If the DVT is confined to the left leg as in the May-Thurner syndrome, death may not occur. However, the sufferer will experience redness in the affected left leg due to inflammation. This accompanies later symptoms like feeling your leg slightly heavier than normal, skin discolorations, wounds that don’t seem to heal, etc.

Is May-Thurner Syndrome Treatable?

Treating this condition largely depends on your symptoms and associated risk factors. Usually;

i)Stenting can be performed. This involves surgically inserting a small tube into the varicose vein to restore normal blood flow.

ii) Taking medicines that ‘thin’ your blood to prevent clots.

iii) Thrombolysis. This involves using a special tube (catheter) to deliver drugs that can break up the blood clots. This is done directly into the affected body tissue or organ.

Of course, if you have other health conditions that could complicate things, a physician may need to address such conditions before administering any of the above treatments.