You may not think much about your veins – until one of those bulging varicose veins suddenly appears on your lower leg. While it may seem like that vein came out of nowhere, there was an entire process that went on inside your veins to contribute to its development. To understand varicose veins, it is helpful to know how the veins function and what can go wrong inside of them to make those swollen vessels form. Check out these basics on vein health from the team at the Vein Center of Florida & South Baldwin.
What are Veins?
Veins are the vessels that move blood back to the heart. The arteries take the blood to all of the tissue and organs of the body, providing essential oxygen and nutrients the body needs to function. The veins then return deoxygenated blood back to the heart so the process can start all over again.
Unlike the arteries, the veins don’t have help from the pumping heart to get blood where it needs to go. Instead, they contain small valves that move the blood in a single direction. Muscle contractions throughout the body also help blood to continue pumping through the veins efficiently.
Types of Veins
Since our primary goal is to understand varicose veins, we will focus on the veins in the leg. There are three basic types of leg veins:
Deep veins are found near the center of the leg and are typically the largest type of veins. These veins carry blood from the smaller veins directly back to the heart. These are also the veins that are most vulnerable to blood clot formation, a condition known as deep vein thrombosis or DVT.
Superficial veins are those found closer to the skin’s surface. These veins are responsible for bringing blood from the outer skin and tissue to the main veins in the center of the leg. They are also the veins that are most likely to become visible as spider or varicose veins.
Perforator veins connect deep veins and superficial veins.
Vein disorders of the superficial veins are typically the ones that lead to the development of spider and varicose veins. Fortunately, there are many superficial veins in the body, which means if one becomes damaged, blood can be redirected to healthy veins nearby.
When Things Go Wrong
Varicose veins are frequently caused by an underlying vein disorder known as chronic venous insufficiency or CVI. This condition occurs when those small valves inside the vessel become damaged or wear out over time. The damage is more common in the lower leg veins because these vessels have to work much harder to move blood all the way up the leg to the heart. The valves in these veins are more likely to wear out because of all the pressure that is placed on them over a lifetime.
There are steps you can take to protect those hard-working lower leg veins and lower your risk for CVI and varicose veins. Maintaining a healthy weight avoids excessive stress on the veins, while regular exercise gives flexing calf muscles the opportunity to support the veins. It is also a good idea to avoid prolonged periods of sitting and standing, since this also places excessive strain on the vein.
Treating Vein Disorders
If CVI and varicose veins do appear, there are minimally-invasive treatment options to address the conditions. These treatments primarily focus on eliminating damaged veins so blood naturally redirects to healthy veins in the vicinity. Dr. Jimenez and the staff at the Vein Center of Florida & South Baldwin have numerous options in vein treatments that allow them to tailor your procedure to your precise needs.