Venous (vein) disease

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Venous (vein) disease is characterized by the difficulty veins experience while carrying blood from your body back to your heart. Venous disease is hereditary, meaning that a person is at a higher than average risk for developing venous disease if one or both of their parents and/or grandparents suffer from vein problems. 

Typically, women are more often affected by venous disease than men. One of the first symptoms of venous disease is a tired, heavy feeling in the legs, which is a clear indication that the return flow of blood from the legs to the heart is impaired. Discomfort in the legs may be accompanied by edema (swelling) of the ankles and lower legs, which indicates that the blood has become congested in the leg veins. Many people find that their leg discomfort is more pronounced after a day of prolonged sitting or standing.  This is because the veins in the legs are easily damaged and may become enlarged by the pressure of the blood pooling in there. As a result of the pooling, the vein walls can weaken and they may start to leak fluid into the surrounding tissues in the legs, which can lead to increased swelling. Two complications resulting from venous disease are varicose veins and spider veins.

Varicose veins

Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted, rope-like veins appearing near the surface of the skin. While they can develop anywhere in the body, they are most commonly found in the legs and ankles because standing and walking increase pressure in the lower extremities.

In normally functioning veins, tiny one-way valves open as blood flows toward the heart and close to prevent blood from flowing backward. When these valves malfunction, blood pools in the veins, resulting in a buildup of pressure that weakens their walls and causes them to bulge. Over time, the increased pressure can cause additional valves to fail. This venous reflux, or venous insufficiency, leads to the development of varicose and spider veins.

Spider veins

Spider veins (telangiectasias) are smaller than varicose veins, beginning as tiny red capillaries that lie close to the surface of the skin and are easily visible. Spider veins are typically located on the thighs, calves, ankles, or face, and, like varicose veins, they can cause physical symptoms ranging from aching, heaviness, and itchiness to night cramps. Not all spider veins require treatment, particularly if they are not causing pain or other physical symptoms. However, some patients decide to have them removed for cosmetic reasons.  Treating spider veins early could prevent worsening symptoms associated with venous disease. Because venous disease is progressive, it is important to treat the underlying cause of the disease as early as possible in order to prevent complications such as edema, hyperpigmentation, venous ulcers, and increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE) – a potentially life threatening condition.