Are Your Varicose Veins a Symptom of Vascular Disease?
Do those unsightly varicose veins indicate a more serious vascular problem? They might.
For many people with varicose veins, the enlarged veins along the legs and feet are a cosmetic concern. For others, varicose vein symptoms, including swelling, discomfort, throbbing, itching, and a feeling of heaviness in the legs, negatively impact their quality of life. But for others, varicose veins are an indicator of a larger medical problem — an underlying vascular disease.
Vascular disease refers to any abnormality in the vascular system that circulates nourishing blood throughout the body through a network of arteries and veins. Varicose veins classify as a vascular disorder because of a weakening of the valves responsible for pumping blood back to the heart after it flows through the extremities.
Working against the force of gravity, these valves close up and drive blood upward to the chest. When these valves malfunction, blood remains in the veins, eventually pushing the vein walls up from under the skin and leading to the appearance of bulging varicose veins. In addition to their unsightly appearance, varicose veins may be a sign of other vascular disorders.
The Connection Between Varicose Veins and Other Vascular Disorders
Although varicose veins are a medical condition on their own, the twisting ropes of blue and purple veins have been associated with other vascular disorders, namely, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and peripheral vascular disease (PVD).
Deep Vein Thrombosis. Within our legs are superficial and deep veins. Closer to the skin’s surface, superficial veins can be seen by the naked eye. Deep veins lie buried within the leg, near bones and muscles. A third type of vein, perforator veins, connect superficial and deep veins.
DVT occurs when a blood clot develops within a deep vein. Although some people may be genetically predisposed to clotting disorders, DVT blood clots typically form due to lengthy periods of inactivity, such as a long plane ride or recovering in bed after surgery. Those are times when leg muscles are inactive and cannot help blood flow in the legs. Stagnant blood circulation increases the risk of a blood clot.
Some studies have pointed to a higher chance of DVT if a person also has varicose veins. A research study done recently in Taiwan concluded that individuals with varicose veins were more likely to suffer DVT. Researchers emphasized, however, that they did not find a causal relationship between varicose veins and DVT.
DVT symptoms range from pain and swelling in the leg to red-colored skin and skin that feels warm to the touch. If you experience those symptoms, visit a physician immediately. Left untreated, the clot may break off and travel to the lungs, where a life-threatening pulmonary embolism (PE) may result.
Peripheral Vascular Disease. Sometimes referred to as peripheral arterial disease (PAD), PVD affects the arteries and veins outside of the heart. PVD develops most often in the arteries of the leg or arm due to a buildup of plaque in an artery that cuts off blood flow. The primary characteristic of PVD is a painful cramp after activity that goes away with rest. There may also be changes to skin color and texture as well as a slower pulse in the legs and feet.
Another condition linked to PVD is chronic venous insufficiency, which is also caused by damaged valves in the leg. Chronic venous insufficiency is marked by many of the symptoms of varicose veins — swelling in the legs, a dull ache in the leg, and cramping.
People with PVD are at greater risk of heart disease, stroke, and even amputation if a wound doesn’t heal on the leg. The condition is diagnosed either by an ultrasound to check blood flow in the legs, or an ankle-brachial index test that measures the blood pressure in the ankle and the arm.
In a broad sense, varicose veins are considered PVD. Worth noting, the Taiwanese study analyzed a possible link between varicose veins and PVD and found no definitive association.
Visit a Vein Specialist
Your vein health is a vital part of your overall health. The specialists at the Center for Vein Restoration offer a variety of options to treat your varicose veins with minimally invasive surgeries. We also assess your veins for other vascular disorders. Contact us today for an appointment.