What Is Vein Disease?

Vein disease, or venous insufficiency, is a condition when the veins in the legs do not properly return blood flow back to your heart. Damaged or weakened veins cause blood to flow backwards and blood to pool in the legs. This leads to visible, painful or swollen veins.


  • Causes
  • Risk Factors
  • Symptoms
  • Treatment
  • Complications
  • What Causes Vein Disease?

    Vein disease begins as the result of damaged valves within the veins themselves. The primary function of veins is to return blood from the body to the heart. Muscle contractions in the legs help accomplish this goal by pushing the blood flow upward, against gravity. At the same time, valves inside the veins open to allow blood to flow in the correct direction and close to prevent it from coming back. However, when valves become weak or damaged, they may not be able to stop the backward flow of blood and subsequent pooling in the veins. Over time, this leads to the darkening, swelling and twisting of varicose veins.

  • What are the Risk Factors Associated with Vein Disease?

    There are a number of risk factors which can lead to the development of vein disease.  While not all of these are controllable, some can be directly influenced by the patient.  In many cases, vein disease is the result of a combination of the following:

    • Age - The risk of developing vein disease increases with age, as time, wear and tear begin to weaken valves.
    • Sex - Women are more likely than men to develop vein disease.  This is due in large part to female hormones which can cause vein walls to relax.
    • Pregnancy - In addition to hormonal changes, pregnancy also produces increased blood volume, which can enlarge veins.
    • Obesity - Carrying excess weight can increase pressure with the legs and damages veins.
    • Lifestyle - The more we move, the more efficient the body becomes and transporting blood.  Living a largely sedentary lifestyle does just the opposite and makes it more difficult for veins to do their job properly.
  • What are the Symptoms of Vein Disease?

    Vein disease may produce no bothersome symptoms at all.  However, in cases which do become symptomatic, the following are among the most commonly observed side effects:

    Discoloration - Veins may appear blue or purplish in color. The skin surrounding varicose veins may also become discolored.
    Protrusion - As veins become enlarged, they may protrude from skin, with a cord or rope-like appearance.
    Pain - Legs may ache, cramp, burn, throb or feel heavy. These symptoms may be worse after prolonged periods of sitting.
    Itching - Itching may occur in areas around one or more of the affected veins. 

  • How is Vein Disease Treated?

    Vein disease can be treated with lifestyle modifications as well as medication. Compression stockings are most commonly used to help relieve symptoms, improve blood flow and reduce swelling. However to treat the root of the problem, interventional procedures can be done to remove or close off the diseased veins. Most of these procedures can be done in a Cardiovascular Institute of the South clinic.

    Without treatment, chronic venous insufficiency can be very painful and debilitating. It can lead to tissue inflammation, tissue damage, or blood clots, and can cause ulcers and infections, which can spread. It is important to consult a vein specialist for a proper diagnosis.

  • What are the Complications Associated with Vein Disease?

    Vein disease can progressively get worse over time due to the pressure created by the backflow of blood in the legs. This may lead to additional spider and varicose veins, and in some cases can lead to swelling and venous ulcers at the lower calf and ankle. Even if only spider veins are present, you should consult a vein specialist to determine the problem so that it can be treated.

    Deep Vein ThrombosisDeep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot develops with a deep a vein, commonly in the legs.  It can occur in one or more veins and can have some serious consequences should any of the clots break loose and travel to the lungs.

    Varicose Veins Varicose veins are dark, enlarged, twisting veins that occur most commonly in the legs.  They range in severity from merely cosmetic (spider veins) to severe with a number of associated, uncomfortable symptoms and potential complications.

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