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Can varicose veins cause vascular disease?

This question was asked in Irvine, California and has 9 answer(s) as of 02/18/2013.
Can varicose veins cause vascular disease?


Doctors Answers (9)

Varicose Veins are a vascular disease : a disease in the superficial veins of the legs. However arterial vascular disease , including arteriosclerosis, is completely unrelated and not caused by veins.

Varicose veins are a form of "vascular disease" involving the veins. Vascular refers to vessels, arteries and veins, but typically is used in reference to disease of the arteries. Varicose veins will not lead to any arterial problems.

Veins are blood vessels like arteries in that they both carry blood. Arteries carry blood away from the heart, veins towards the heart. Vascular disease can refer to either arteries or veins. In common usage, however, it usually refers to arteries. What happens to arteries? They usually become narrowed or 'clogged' by plaque (a product of having too much cholesterol in the blood). In the end, flow of blood is reduced/restricted.

"Vascular" means blood vessel. Since both arteries and veins are blood vessels, varicose veins are a form of vascular disease.

Varicose veins result in reduced venous return to the heart and increased superficial venous pressures which can cause other normal veins to become varicose veins. Varicose veins appear to be separate and unrelated to arterial vascular diseases.

Since varicose veins are vascular structures, technically they are a type of vascular disease. However, when most people (and doctors) say vascular disease, they mean peripheral arterial disease. Varicose veins to not cause arterial disease. Nor does venous insufficiency (the underlying cause of varicose veins) cause heart disease, high blood pressure, aortic aneurysms, or irregular heartbeats. Varicose veins and venous insufficiency can cause leg swelling, blood clots, leg cramps, restless legs, and legs that are tired and achy. Advanced venous disease can cause skin discoloration, dry itchy skin, and even skin ulcers.

Varicose veins are a form of vascular disease involving the venous system as apposed to arterial disease. Arterial disease usually manifested by blockage of arteries that can lead to pain with walking and possible loss of toes or major amputations. Venous disease is usually characterized by valvular malfunction leading to venous hypertension, varicose veins with ulceration and bleeding. The veins can become thrombosed leading to Deep Vein Thrombosus, pulmonary embolism or chronic venous insufficiency. Patients can have leg or ankle ulcers, swelling and pain or painful varicose veins with inflammation.

If left untreated, varicose veins disease may progress and cause swelling and edema at the lower legs. This swelling may cause pressure onto the small arteries that perfuse the ankle and foot areas By themselves, varicose veins are abnormal veins and therefore an abnormal vascular system exists.

The term "vascular" refers to the tissues that carry blood in the body. The arteries carry blood from the heart to the tissues and the veins return the blood from the tissues to the heart. The disease processes which affect the arteries and the veins are very different. Varicose veins occur as the veins stretch over time and become enlarged in diameter and length. As the veins enlarge, the one-way valves in the veins fail and allow blood to flow downward with gravity which generates high pressures within the veins. This high pressure in the veins causes much of the pain, tenderness, and the swelling associated with varicose veins. Unfortunately, the term "vascular disease" is used very loosely and can mean many things. The most common use of the term "vascular disease" refers to arterial blockage caused by a process called atherosclerosis. This blockage of the arteries is caused by cholesterol and calcium deposits in the walls of the arteries. This process is very different from the development of varicose veins. Arterial blockage from atherosclerosis causes most heart attacks and may block blood flow to the brain causing one of the kinds of strokes or leg pain due to poor blood flow to the tissues of the legs.

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