To understand the causes of venous disorders, you have to start with the circulatory system. Our circulatory system is made up of two separate parts: arteries that take the blood from the heart to all the tissues in our bodies and veins that return the blood back to our heart. The arteries benefit from gravity, which pulls the blood downward from our heart, whereas the veins have to generate their own pumping action to resist gravity and move the blood back up to our heart. To move the blood in this way, our veins are arranged in two layers: deep veins that run vertically within our muscles and superficial veins that are arranged as a network of thousands of vessels. When the veins are unable to pump blood properly, blood begins to pool in our veins instead of moving upward toward our heart. This pooling is what leads to the appearance of spider and varicose veins as well as the more serious symptoms for leg pain, leg swelling, and blood clotting.
There are several risk factors that contribute to vein disease:
Aging is one of the most important risk factors. Small venous problems often progress into large ones over time. A decrease in the body’s production of collagen, a breakdown of the elastic material in vein walls causes them to breakdown and stretch over time, which ultimately results in bulging veins, more visible veins, and swelling in the veins.
Genetics is also a significant risk factor. Vein disorders run in families, and if you have a family member with spider or varicose veins, you are more likely to develop them yourself.
Ethnicity also plays a role in the development of venous disorders. Research has found that Caucasians have a higher incidence of varicose veins than people of Hispanic, African American, and Asian descent.
Mobility can be an important treatment method as well as a risk factor. Sitting, lying, and particularly standing for long periods of time hinders the ability of the leg muscles to pump blood, slowing down the blood flow.
The severity of vein diseases can range from cosmetic to life-threatening, so it’s important to consult a vein care specialist if you think you have a venous disorder or are considering different treatment options. A vein care specialist will be able to evaluate the severity of your condition and recommend different treatment options. Learn more about what to look for and expect in an evaluation.