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General Information about Veins

Concepts of Vein Care and Facts regarding Venous Disease


Normal Circulation and Varicose Veins

Blood is carried away from the heart by arteries and is returned to the heart by veins. There are two networks of veins in the legs, which return the blood to the heart. The deep veins in the legs carry 90% of the blood to the heart. These veins do not become varicose because the muscle layers, which surround them, protect the walls of these veins. The surface or superficial veins carry 10% of the blood returning to the heart. The surface veins are the only veins that can become varicose. Varicose veins, or varices, are enlarged, visible surface veins, which are located directly beneath the skin. These varicose veins are no longer able to function properly.

Leg Pain and Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are the leading cause of leg pain in otherwise healthy adult population. Varicose veins are more painful while they are forming because the walls of these veins are stretching. This pain can often be a burning sensation. After several years, once the walls of the veins have stretched, heaviness rather than pain may be felt. Female hormones have an effect on varicose veins resulting in some women experiencing greater pain before and during menstruation and during pregnancy. Other forms of discomfort experienced with varicose veins can be night cramps. “Restless legs” causes the individual to shift leg positions frequently, and to have pain while standing or walking.

Abnormal Veins

Spider Veins (Telangiectasias)

Spider veins are tiny, thread-like purplish-blue or red veins seen close to the surface of the skin. Spider veins are usually the result of malfunctioning deeper veins.

Reticular Veins

Reticular veins are turquoise-blue veins seen through the skin in areas of stretch (knees, etc.). When they become varicose they can cause sharp pains.

Collateral Veins

Collateral veins are large veins. When they become varicose they can pool a large volume of blood. They are often the cause of heaviness in the legs. Collateral (or truncal) varices lead, in time, to medical complications.

Causes of Varicose Veins

Heredity: 90% of varices are inherited. Acquired: 10% of varicose veins are caused by an injury, an inflammation or from a deep venous thrombosis (blood clot). Other causes: Other factors which can indirectly induce the inflammation of varicose veins are obesity, pregnancy, old age, excessive heat including prolonged exposure to the sun, prolonged standing, constricting clothing and girdles, and disorder of the limbs and feet.

Important Facts regarding Venous Disease

Venous Disease Is Common

Chronic venous insufficiency is the 7th most common cause of chronic debilitating disease in the US. 80 million Americans have some form of venous disorder. 24 million have varicose veins. 6 million have skin changes associated with chronic venous insufficiency. 500,000 have venous leg ulcers

DVTs (Blood Clots)

One of nine people will develop DVT (deep venous thrombosis) by the age of 80. More than 600,000 people are hospitalized each year with DVT. The American Heart Association documents > 2 million cases of DVT per year. Without prevention, between 10 and 40 % of general medical and general surgical patients, and 40-60% of patients having major orthopedic surgery develop DVT.

Venous Disease Can Be Fatal

DVT can result in pulmonary embolism (600,000 new cases per year). Total annual deaths due to pulmonary embolism exceed the combined annual number of deaths due to HIV and breast cancer. Pulmonary embolism is the 4th leading cause of death in the US, resulting in 100,000 – 300,000 deaths per year. Pulmonary embolism accounts for the majority of pregnancy related maternal deaths in the US.

Venous Disease and DVT Can Result in Chronic Problems including Leg Ulcers

DVT can result in chronic venous insufficiency or “Post Thrombotic Syndrome” (PTS) in up to two-thirds of patient affected. PTS can cause varicose veins, leg swelling, pain, skin changes, and leg ulcers. 90% of leg ulcers result from venous insufficiency.

Identification of Venous Risk Factors Can Prevent Deaths and Chronic Problems

Early diagnosis and treatment of DVT can prevent fatal pulmonary embolism. Identification of risk factors for venous disease can identify patients who should be treated with preventative measures when they are hospitalized in order to prevent DVT, pulmonary emboli, and unnecessary death and morbidity. Appropriate prophylactic treatment reduces venous clots by 50 to 70%, is cost effective, and has a low risk of complications.


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Rethink Varicose Veins

Patient education information regarding vein problems including varicose veins and blood clots.

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