Why Does Your Vein Health Matter?
The circulatory system, also known as the vascular system, is the network of organs and vessels that transport nourishment to every cell in the human body. A chief component of this critical system is the thin-walled, interconnected web of structures called veins. Veins are responsible for returning blood to the heart.
There are two types of veins:
- superficial veins- which are found near the surface of the skin
- deep veins- which are located within the muscles
When the valves of the veins are damaged, the circulatory system is negatively impacted as blood collects and flows retrograde. This backward flow causes pressure to build and leads to stretching and twisting of the veins, swelling, valve incompetence, sluggish blood flow, and the possibility of blood clot formation.
3 Conditions Associated with Venous Disease.
Venous disease is relatively common, affecting millions of people in the U.S. each year. Three common forms of venous disease are varicose veins, superficial thrombophlebitis, and deep vein thrombophlebitis.
- Varicose veins. Affecting an estimated 40 million people in the U.S., varicose veins are often a symptom of a deeper health concern. Varicose veins can be quite uncomfortable and even painful, however. In rare cases, the risks associated with varicose veins are deep vein thrombosis, blood clots, and ulcers.
- Superficial thrombophlebitis. An inflammatory condition caused by a blood clot near the surface of the skin. Complications such as cellulitis or deep vein thrombosis are rare and this condition is often resolved within two weeks. However, superficial thrombophlebitis is more likely to be recurring in patients who have varicose veins and can cause significant pain.
- Deep vein thrombophlebitis. An inflammatory condition caused by a blood clot in the veins deep within the muscle. Some patients experience pain and swelling. In some cases, this condition can be life-threatening when the blood clot loosens and travels to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. This condition must be evaluated and treated by a healthcare provider in a timely fashion.
Am I at risk for developing venous disease?
There are several risk factors associated with venous disease. The most common risk factors include:
- Age. Walls of the veins weaken and become more inefficient over time.
- Sex. Women are more likely to have venous insufficiency than men.
- Weight. Obesity causes stress on the vascular system.
- Family history. Certain genes are associated with venous insufficiency.
- Smoking. Smoking weakens the walls of the veins.
- Sedentary lifestyle. Movement is a vital component in maintaining proper blood flow.
- Pregnancy. Due to changes in blood volume during pregnancy, women often develop varicose veins in the legs or the groin.
- Long periods of standing or sitting. Those who spend long periods of time sitting or standing are at increased risk of developing varicose veins.
Top 5 ways to promote vascular health.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the best way you can keep your veins healthy. A healthy lifestyle is characterized by the following:
- Staying active on a routine basis
- Maintaining a balanced and healthy weight
- Eating a variety of plant-based foods
- Staying hydrated
- Taking breaks to move throughout the workday or while traveling
When should I call my doctor?
If you experience one or more of the following symptoms, you should call your doctor and schedule an exam:
- Leg cramps that disrupt sleep
- Unexplained swelling in arms or legs
- Swollen or itchy veins
- Pain or swelling in a vein that does not subside
A vein health checkup is typically painless and non-invasive. A technician may use ultrasound to look at the veins and assess for blood clots or signs of blood flowing in the wrong direction. If any problems are found, there are advanced, minimally invasive outpatient treatments available. Implementing some lifestyle changes can promote a healthy vascular system, as well.