To understand the different types of vein diseases, you have to know a little about how your circulatory system works. Arteries convey oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood from the heart and lungs to other areas of the body, and veins convey the deoxygenated blood back to the heart and lungs for regeneration. But your veins differ from your arteries in both structure and function. Arteries contain internal muscles that physically pump blood, but veins have no such muscles, and must rely on the motion of surrounding muscle tissues to pump blood.
The flow of blood through your veins is controlled by a series of tiny, one-way valves that open to allow blood to flow through, but then close again to keep it from flowing “backwards,” back into the veins. In general, vein disease is what happens when these valves stop functioning properly, or when obstructions such as blood clots occur, and block the proper flow of blood.
The main types of vein disease
Ask most people what vein disease is, and they’ll respond with the most visible symptoms of vein disease – spider veins and varicose veins. They are veins close to the surface of the skin that have become swollen with deoxygenated blood and whose red or bluish color can be seen beneath the surface of the skin. Spider veins are not considered a serious disease per se, as opposed to varicose veins, which if left untreated can become much, much worse.
But in reality most cases of spider veins and varicose veins are caused by an underlying condition called chronic venous insufficiency, or CVI. CVI causes the valves that control blood flow to become “leaky,” allowing blood to flow back into the veins and pool there. CVI is a serious disease, one that not only causes the unsightliness of varicose veins and spider veins, but reduces blood flow so much that it impairs your overall circulatory system. Untreated, CVI can cause chronic swelling and pain in the legs and ankles, skin discoloration and ulceration, and impairments of your immune system that greatly increase your risk of developing other conditions like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and stroke.
More serious types of vein disease – phlebitis, thrombus, and embolism
One of the reasons vascular doctors strongly suggest that CVI be treated as quickly as possible is that it gets worse, and can develop into phlebitis. With this condition, the already-damaged veins can become so inflamed, infected, and covered with toughened skin and open sores that you can no longer walk.
And as distressing as this may be, there are worse forms of vein disease, such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), in which blood clots (thrombi) begin to form in the larger, deeper veins of your legs. The symptoms of DVT are not visible on the surface of the skin like varicose veins, but these blood clots are much more serious. Even if they stay where they formed in the veins they block proper blood flow and weaken your overall circulation, but it’s when the blood clots break loose and move through the veins to other locations that they become truly dangerous. If they travel to the brain they can cause a stroke, and if they travel to the lungs they can cause a pulmonary embolism. The latter complication of DVT is so common that it kills over 300,000 Americans every year.
What can you do to protect yourself against vein disease?
The most important thing you can do is to call your Boynton Beach vascular doctors and set up an appointment to have a venous health screening. This procedure takes only about an hour, and is completely painless and non-invasive, but can identify all forms of vein disease. If vein disease is present, the modern, minimally-invasive procedures used in our Boynton Beach vein clinic allow most conditions to be treated in about the same amount of time – without hospitalization, and in the comfort of our offices. If vein disease is not present, a screening can also pinpoint factors that put you at increased risk of developing it in the future, so your Boynton Beach vein specialists can work with you to reduce those risks and keep you healthy. So take an important step towards protecting yourself from all types of vein disease by calling our offices today at 561-515-0080 to set up an appointment for your own venous health screening.