Patient Education

What is vein disease?

Veins are the blood vessels that return blood to the heart from the body. To overcome the force of gravity, inside veins are one-way valves which open to allow blood to flow to the heart, and close to prevent “reflux” of blood back to the body. When these valves fail to function, or if the vein is damaged so the valves do not completely close, blood can begin to pool in the vein and cause a variety of vein complications.

How do I know if I have vein disease?

Most vein disease can be seen by looking at the size and color of the vein at the skin surface. In some cases, the diseased vein may be deeper in the body and not visible through the skin. Paying close attention to other symptoms such as cramping, aching, burning, itching, soreness or “tired” or “restless” legs, especially in the calf muscles can be important in diagnosing vein disease. If you experience these symptoms, a detailed ultrasound can be performed to determine if you have vein disease.

How common is vein disease?

Vein disease of the legs is one of the most common medical conditions. Approximately half of the population has some form of vein disease. Varicose veins affect between 15-25% of all adults, and approximately 50% of all people over the age of 50. Women have a higher incidence than men.

Can vein disease be prevented?

If you have a family history of vein disease, there is nothing you can do to change your genes. Being overweight can accelerate the progression of vein disease, and long periods of standing can also add to the problem. For minor pain from varicose veins, a compression stocking may be beneficial. The compression will assist the leg in pumping the blood back to the heart. While the vein disease symptoms may be relieved, compression stockings will not make the varicose veins go away.

Don’t I need my veins?

Because there are many veins in the leg, the blood that would have flowed through the closed vein simply flows through other healthy veins after your procedure. The loss of the diseased vein is not a problem for your circulatory system.

Who should not be treated?

Patients should wait at least three months after pregnancy or major surgery before being treated for vein disease. Persons with deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or incompetence, and patients who cannot ambulate for other reasons are not good candidates for treatment.