While varicose veins are not a symptom nor a cause of heart problems, many of the same risk factors that cause vein disease can also lead to heart disease.
Venous insufficiency, also known as vein disease, is the root cause of varicose veins. Venous insufficiency is a common vein condition, with approximately 2.5 million people experiencing the condition in the United States alone, according to the AHA Journal Circulation.
While often considered a cosmetic issue, venous insufficiency can have serious health consequences if left untreated. Vein disease occurs when the veins in the legs cannot adequately pump blood back to the heart. Vein disease can lead to a buildup of blood in the legs, causing swelling, pain, cramping, itching, feelings of leg heaviness, skin changes in the legs, and in severe cases, ulcers.
Varicose veins, a common symptom
of venous insufficiency, have also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Varicose veins occur when the valves in the veins become damaged or weakened, allowing blood to flow in the wrong direction. This can lead to the veins becoming enlarged and twisted, which can be seen just under the skin.
While the exact connection between varicose veins and heart disease is not clear, it is thought that the increased pressure in the veins caused by varicose veins may lead to inflammation and damage to the arteries, the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes, according to Johns Hopkins.
The link between varicose veins and heart disease
According to the NIH National Library of Medicine, a “marginally higher prevalence of congestive heart failure (CHF) was found in persons with varicose veins than in those without.” The study concludes: “our longitudinal observation is consistent with the hypothesis that persons with varicose veins have a higher risk of CHF, which is not mediated through sex, age, overweight, arterial disease, or hypertension.”
It is important to note that while vein disease and heart problems are connected, the relationship is not necessarily causal. In other words, having vein disease does not necessarily mean that a person will develop heart problems, and vice versa. However, the two conditions share some risk factors, such as age, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Leg ulcers, DVT, and heart disease
As mentioned previously, venous ulcers are a serious complication of untreated varicose veins. Ulcers form when valves inside the leg veins that control the blood pressure inside the veins become weak or damaged, which alters blood flow. Pressure builds, and the skin becomes fragile and can break open.
Because skin ulcers can take weeks, months, and sometimes longer to heal (and may require hospitalization), ulcers can lead to infection. Untreated varicose veins can be especially dangerous for people with heart disease, as they may be more prone to infection and complications.
In addition to the risk of infection, vein disease can also contribute to heart problems through the development of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is when a blood clot forms in the body’s deep veins, usually in the legs. If left untreated, these blood clots can break loose and travel to the lungs, causing a potentially life-threatening condition called pulmonary embolism.
How to reduce your risk of varicose veins and heart disease
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can prevent both vein disease and heart problems. This includes eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and keeping a healthy weight. Wearing compression stockings and elevating the legs can also help to reduce the risk of vein disease.
If you are experiencing symptoms of vein disease, such as varicose veins or swelling in the legs, it is essential to see a vein specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment. Many treatments are available for vein conditions, including sclerotherapy, laser therapy, and surgery.
Seek treatment for varicose veins. Your heart will thank you!
The link between venous insufficiency and heart disease has yet to be fully understood. It is thought that the increased pressure in the veins caused by venous insufficiency may lead to inflammation and damage to the arteries. This, in turn, can increase the risk of heart disease.
What can be done to manage and treat vein conditions and potentially reduce the risk of heart disease? There are several options available, depending on the severity of the condition.
For mild cases of venous insufficiency
Lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and avoiding prolonged standing or sitting can be effective in managing symptoms. Wearing compression stockings can also help to improve circulation and reduce swelling in the legs.
In moderate to severe cases, varicose vein treatment may be necessary
One minimally invasive treatment option includes endovenous laser treatment and radiofrequency ablation that uses heat to seal the damaged veins. Other treatment options include sclerotherapy, where a solution is injected into the veins to seal them, and ambulatory phlebectomy, an office-based outpatient procedure in which the damaged vein is removed through tiny incisions. A newer treatment option, VenaSeal, closes varicose veins using a proprietary medical adhesive.
The leader in vein care
If you are concerned about your heart disease risk or have symptoms of vein disease, it is essential to speak with a qualified vein doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) is the nation’s leader in diagnosing and treating vein disease. Making the lives better for more than 200,000 patients every year, CVR offers treatment plans that are customized to your specific needs.
And, with more than 100 CVR vein clinics across the US, there’s sure to be a CVR vein center near you. Call 800-FIX-LEGS (800-349-5347) to speak to a caring Patient Services Representative or schedule an appointment online.
Vein treatment with CVR is covered by most insurance