Your arteries have the relatively easy job of carrying nutrient-rich oxygenated blood to the rest of your body. They get a boost from each pump of your heart, and much of the journey is an easy downhill slide. But your veins have to work against gravity, especially when transporting blood from your feet, up the length of your legs and torso, and back to your heart.
Although special one-way valves, as well as the contraction of your muscles, aid the upward climb, several factors can place extra stress on your veins and valves, causing them to fail.
Whether or not that failure causes a mere cosmetic annoyance or a full-fledged health problem depends on the underlying cause and severity of your symptoms. The best way to find out for sure which type you have is to undergo an evaluation by an experienced specialist.
Dr. Daphne Panagotacos and her team diagnose and treat all types of venous issues, and if you’re suffering from vein problems, we can meet with you to discuss the best treatments that will ensure they don’t progress.
Why veins fail
One of the first visible signs that your veins are in trouble is the appearance of spider veins or varicose veins, and about 50% of all adults have them to some degree.
Spider veins are web-like networks of visible veins just under the surface of your skin, and varicose veins are their bigger, more prominent cousins, which look like tangled, ropey bulges, typically on your legs.
When you see them, you can bet that it has to do with weakened vein walls and faulty valves that can’t push the blood upward efficiently. So, the blood backs up and pools in one section of the vein making it visible through your skin. The most common culprits are:
- Overweight or obesity
- Older age (50 and above)
- Birth control pills
- Hormone replacement therapy
Women tend to get varicose veins more often than men, and genetics can certainly play a role, as they tend to run in families.
When are vein problems serious health concerns?
Most often, spider veins and varicose veins don’t pose any real health problems. However, in some cases, varicose veins can become itchy and painful and may cause your skin to discolor.
If your varicose veins progress and become chronic venous insufficiency, you may develop ulcers on the skin around your lower leg and ankles. Also, varicose veins that are very close to the surface of your skin may burst and bleed. In these cases, it’s best to come in for proper medical care and full evaluation of your vein health.
But skin issues aren’t the only problems that may occur — there are some serious complications that stem from chronic venous insufficiency.
Deep vein thrombosis
When your problem veins are near your skin, you can identify them as varicose veins, but when the problem occurs in the veins deeper inside your legs, it’s called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that poses a potential danger.
You may not notice any symptoms of DVT at all, but if you do they might include:
- Skin discoloration, usually brownish
- More pain
- Skin that’s hot to the touch
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, schedule an appointment right away, as the clot can easily break away and travel to your lungs.
If your DVT clot breaks away and reaches your lungs, it’s called a pulmonary embolism. This presents a life-threatening situation since the clot can easily block an artery and prevent oxygen from entering your blood. The result is lung and organ damage and possible death.
How to avoid and treat vein problems
The best way to sidestep vein problems is to maintain a healthy weight and get plenty of exercise. If you smoke, quit, as smoking wreaks havoc on your venous system. If you’re taking hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills, we might discuss some alternatives that don’t endanger your veins.
Whether you’re tired of hiding your varicose veins or you’re concerned they might be hiding a deeper problem, the best course of action is a full vein health evaluation. Contact Daphne Panagotacos, M.D., Inc. in Westlake Village, CA, by phone or online to schedule an appointment .