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Are Varicose Veins A Sign Of Heart Disease?

When patients are first diagnosed with varicose veins, they sometimes wonder if the veins became diseased because of high blood pressure, or because their heart isn’t pumping blood sufficiently. They also wonder if they should be worried about vein disease throughout their whole body. These are good, valid concerns, so let’s clear up any confusion around the matter.

Veins transport blood to the heart and have one-way valves that keep blood from flowing backward. If those valves weaken, blood can pool in the veins which causes inflammation and increases the pressure inside the veins. Over time, this causes the veins to become distended, or enlarged, resulting in the twisted ropy blue bulges that are sometimes visible with varicose veins.

Varicose veins often cause uncomfortable symptoms, like swelling, heaviness, aching, or restless legs, but they don’t typically pose a major health threat or indicate heart disease or high blood pressure. This is because the venous system and the arterial system in the body are different systems, with different functions.

Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the tissues in the body, and are usually positioned deeper within the body than veins. Veins return blood, which is now oxygen-poor, from the tissues in the body to the heart, and veins are usually positioned closer to the surface of the skin. Heart disease is related to the arterial system, while varicose veins involve the venous system.

In fact, there have been studies that have demonstrated that those with varicose veins are slightly less likely than the average American to have heart disease. While these studies offer  no explanation for why this should be so it is at least interesting to note this to be the case.

(Obviously, if one has symptoms of heart disease such as shortness of breath, chest pain or other symptoms they should be evaluated for this as you can have varicose vein and heart disease at the same time.)

When To Be Concerned

While varicose veins and heart disease are typically unrelated, patients with varicose veins should consider their overall health since the disease is one side of their circulatory system—the venous side. And in the experience of our practice at East Tennessee Vein Clinic, in about 10% of cases, untreated varicose veins lead to more advanced medical problems, including chronic swelling of the legs, leg discoloration, open and recurrent sores, ulcer, severe bleeding and clotting.

The bottom line is that while varicose veins are not usually dangerous or life-threatening, they are chronic and progressive in nature. This means that symptoms will often become more pronounced over time, and the risk of developing complications experienced in the minority of 10% or so of patients increases with the passage of time as the veins continue untreated.

The good news is that there are many options for treating diseased veins and most procedures are minimally-invasive and are performed in less than an hour in a doctor’s office. If you’re concerned that your varicose veins may indicate a more serious medical problem or your symptoms are worsening, consult with a vein specialist without further delay.

At East Tennessee Vein Clinic, we help many patients get rid of their varicose veins so they’re no longer plagued by uncomfortable symptoms. When our patients learn that the procedures are quick and easy, plus typically covered by insurance, they’re glad they didn’t postpone treatment longer.

As the first physician dedicated solely to the treatment of vein disease in Tennessee, Dr. Douglass and East Tennessee Vein Clinic lead the region in experience and expertise of varicose veins. We treat veins differently than other clinics precisely because we are dedicated to treating the root cause of each patient’s vein disease.

Visit us online at East Tennessee Vein Clinic, or call 866-281-VEIN, or request an appointment online today. We are offering free vein screenings for the month of January. Please mention free screenings when making your appointment.

Love Dr. Douglass and entire staff. My favorite part is that K-Love 88.3 is always playing. I have referred several friends!

- S. W., Knoxville, TN

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