What is Vein Disease?


In the legs, blood returns from the legs to the heart via large veins. The job of these vessels is to transport blood against gravity all the way back to the heart so the blood can receive oxygen and circulate again through the body. Veins do this through a series of one way valves located within them. Muscles from the leg act as a pump to push the blood upwards, and the valves prevent the blood from leaking back towards the feet.

In many people, however, the valves stop working. We are not sure exactly why this happens, but there are likely many factors working together, which may contribute to this phenomenon. These include:

  • Obesity
  • Hormonal changes (like pregnancy)
  • Trauma (breaking a leg or having surgery on a knee for example)
  • Genetics (did your mother and grandmother have varicose veins?)

Vein Disease Once the vein valves stop working correctly, they begin leaking blood back towards the feet, resulting in increased pressure. This often causes symptoms like swelling and achiness initially. If it persists, the branches of the poorly functioning veins start enlarging and becoming more visible in the leg. Sometimes these veins are small, and are called "spider veins" or "telangectasias". Sometimes they are bigger (2-3 mm) and are called "reticular veins". If they are even larger than this (those ropy veins that you can see under the skin), they are called "varicose veins."



It is important to realize that varicose veins, spider veins, and reticular veins do not happen for no reason. They happen because there are poorly functioning veins in the lower leg, which may need to be treated.

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