Veins are an essential part of our circulatory system. They transport deoxygenated blood back to the heart from the rest of your body so that it can be re-oxygenated by the lungs, and fed back to the body through your arteries. Unfortunately, we don’t all have the healthy functioning veins we should. Many people attribute varicose veins, spider veins etc. to age, but there are other, treatable causes. Here are two common venous conditions and their causes.
Varicose veins are larger blood vessels near the surface that are abnormally large. The reason for this is usually damaged valves. The valves in your veins keep blood flowing in the right direction. When they’re damaged, they don’t close properly so blood may flow the wrong way and often pools in your lower limbs. This shows as bulging veins below the skin. Severe varicose veins can be painful.
Spider veins are similar, but are typically the smaller capillaries right at the surface. They tend not to be as painful, but the deeper veins which they connect to may be. You can learn more about reticular and spider veins here. Causes of both spider veins and varicose veins can be genetic or lifestyle related, specifically sedentary lifestyles and obesity. Other causes are pregnancy and prolonged standing. They can be treated with compression stockings, though more severe cases may require medical intervention.
Thrombosis refers to a clot in the vein, which can be a result of genetic traits, pregnancy, contraceptives, cancer or prolonged immobility. Superficial thrombophlebitis, the more common form, affects the blood vessels directly below the skin’s surface. The clot may be visible through the skin and the affected vein often shows as a long red streak. Symptoms can be similar to that of infection – abnormally warm to the touch, pain and inflammation. Thrombosis can cause varicose veins by forcing blood backwards along the vein.
A deep vein thrombosis typically has one of two causes. Primary DVT is usually genetic, while secondary DVT results from a lack of mobility. Symptoms can include pain, swelling and increased pressure in the leg, though the condition can be difficult to diagnose as only about 50% of affected people show signs of the disease. In some cases, the clot may resolve itself, or your doctor may prescribe blood thinners to expedite the process. Occasionally, the clot may need to be removed surgically. This is typically a minor surgery known as a thrombectomy.
Severe venous conditions, particularly those caused by obesity, can drastically impact your circulation, resulting in sensation loss, ulcers, and occasionally gangrene. It’s estimated that around half the US population has some sort of venous condition. For the most part, we can prevent the onset of these conditions by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For those already suffering the effects, simple changes and early intervention could improve the condition, or at the very least prevent it worsening, and there are several treatment options available.