The Vascular System
The vascular system is comprised of the heart, arteries, and veins. Veins are blood vessels that return blood from the body to the heart.
To overcome the force of gravity, inside the veins are one-way valves, which open to allow blood flow to the heart, and close to prevent reflux of blood back to the body. When the valves fail to function, or if the vein is compromised so the valves do not completely close, blood can begin to pool in the vein causing a host of complications.
chronic venous insufficiency / varicose veins
Symptoms that have been associated with chronic venous insufficiency / varicose veins of the lower extremities include:
Typically if you have these symptoms, they are exacerbated by standing up for long periods of time and will be worse in warm weather.
Venous Disease Risk Factors
If one parent had venous disease then you are at a 60% risk while if both parents had venous disease then you are at an 89% risk to develop varicose veins.
Research suggests that venous disease affects more than 25% of all Women and 15% of all Men. Women are found more likely to be affected by venous disease than Men due to female hormones that promote relaxation of the vein walls, making the valves more prone to insufficiency.
Research suggests that jobs, which require long periods of standing, may increase your risk for varicose veins. When you are standing for long periods of time, blood does not flow as easily from the extremities to the heart. Teachers, nurses, factory workers, customer service workers, food industry workers, and similar occupations are especially at risk.
Being severely overweight increases the pressure on your veins requiring them to work harder in order to recirculate blood back to your heart. This can put increased pressure on the valves making them more prone to reflux.
The amount of blood in a woman’s body increases when pregnant to help support her growing baby. This puts an extra strain on her circulatory system. Additionally, research has shown that the increased hormone levels reached during pregnancy also cause the blood vessels to relax making the valves prone to reflux. As the uterus (womb) starts to grow, the additional pressure on the vessels in the pelvic region can lead to varicose veins. Although being pregnant may increase your risk of developing varicose veins and arteries, most women will find their condition improves considerably after pregnancy.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency
Varicose veins afflict between 25% women & 15% men – two-thirds of them women – with uncomfortable and unsightly veins and arteries. When valves fail to function properly, blood leaks through causing a backwards flow in your legs. The blood overfills and distends the superficial veins under the skin, resulting in symptomatic varicose veins – a condition known as chronic venous insufficiency. Left untreated, chronic venous insufficiency can cause more advanced disease including leg ulcers, which can be very difficult to treat.
Varicose veins are enlarged rope-like veins that are swollen and raised above the surface of the skin which occur due to a weakening in the vein walls and valves. These can appear as dark purple or blue and look lumpy, twisted and/or bulging in appearance. For some patients, varicose veins present merely a cosmetic abnormality, but the majority of patients suffer from moderate to severe pain or discomfort that can affect a person’s ability to complete normal activities of daily living such as walking upstairs or prolonged standing. The presence of varicose veins are typically an indication of a further underlying condition known as chronic venous insufficiency (venous disease).
This condition develops when valves in the veins that allow blood to flow toward the heart stop working properly. As a result, blood pools in the veins and causes them to expand. These bulging veins can be symptomatic, resulting in pain, edema, skin discoloration and even ulcerations. Those who suffer from varicose veins are likely to complain of their legs feeling heavy, swollen, tired, restless and achy. Often sitting or standing in the same position for too long a period of time will worsen their symptoms as the day progresses.
Varicose veins can be serious and may be associated with the development of one or more of the following conditions:
Spider veins, also known as telangiectasias, are smaller dilated superficial veins aptly named because they look like a spider web; they can cover a large area or only certain areas of skin. They are most commonly seen on the thighs, calves and ankles, are close to the surface of the skin, and will appear blue, purple or red.
They may be isolated or associated with larger “feeder” veins. As with varicose veins, they are caused by venous insufficiency – in a milder form. Even the contributing factors are the same: age, gender, heredity, obesity, pregnancy, and standing occupations. People often seek treatment for spider veins because of cosmetic concerns. Though they typically do not cause pain or lead to other significant complications, they can be associated with larger underlying varicose veins. Our physicians will order an ultrasound to rule out chronic venous insufficiency before scheduling cosmetic treatment(s). Treatments may include sclerotherapy, topical laser or a combination of both.
Treatment for varicose and spider veins varies from one patient to another depending on many contributing factors; however, they are typically isolated and confirmed by venous Doppler ultrasound and revealed upon physical examination. Some individuals with varicose and spider veins go without treatment or therapy. Left untreated, varicose vein symptoms can rarely be alleviated, normal venous flow cannot be re-established and the possibility of further complications is increased. As for spider veins, foregoing treatments means the existing veins remain as more and more new spider veins develop.
Varicose veins and spider veins can be treated with safe and effective in-office procedures. Venous disease and varicose veins afflict upwards of 20% of the adult population – 25% of women and 15% of men. In the United States, that translates into more than 40 million Americans. If your varicose veins and spider veins are causing you significant discomfort, or you have developed complications, you are more likely to require treatment.
When you come to the best, you can expect the best. Begin your journey to optimal results by scheduling your consultation with one of our renowned vein specialists today. We look forward to providing you with the most enjoyable and effective vein treatments in Alabama.
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