The idea that varicose veins and cardiovascular disease are related is understandable — after all, varicose veins are a vascular issue. If, like millions of others, you’ve developed varicose veins, you can breathe a sigh of relief, as they’re not related to your heart health.
As specialists in both varicose veins and cardiovascular disease, Dr. Satjit Bhusri and our team at The Vein Institute at Upper East Side Cardiology want to help you understand the difference here.
A vascular issue, not a disease
The term “cardiovascular” may be confusing because, technically, varicose veins fall under this heading. When we’re talking about disease, however, it’s an altogether different matter.
Cardiovascular disease refers to issues in your arteries, valves, and your heart. Your arteries are the major blood vessels that deliver oxygenated blood from your heart to your body. Conversely, your veins take up the task of delivering oxygen-depleted blood back to your heart.
When you get varicose veins, it’s because blood isn’t being pumped efficiently in the superficial veins in your legs — the blood vessels closest to the surface of your skin. These veins are equipped with tiny valves that shut off as blood passes through, which prevents the blood from spilling backward. If these tiny valves fail, blood can pool and push the vein outward, creating what you see on the surface when you develop varicose veins.
Outside of this issue not being related to how well your heart and arteries are functioning, varicose veins occur in the superficial veins in your legs, which are only responsible for about 10% of the blood being delivered back to your heart. The heavy lifting is accomplished by veins deeper in your legs.
An ongoing circulatory problem
The one issue to which we do want to draw your attention is chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), which affects between 6 and 7 million people in the United States.
CVI is typically behind varicose veins, and relates to the issue we already discussed about blood pooling in your legs because of weak valves.
While varicose veins are one outcome, and a side effect that we can easily remedy through our vein treatments, we’re also concerned about venous ulcers developing. Between 1% and 2.7% of people with CVI develop venous ulcers, which can be problematic as they tend to heal slowly and recur.
To combat both varicose veins and ulcers when you have CVI, we recommend compression stockings, as well as exercising the muscles in your lower legs to better support your veins.
To learn more about treatments for varicose veins and CVI, please call our New York City office on the Upper East Side of Manhattan at (212) 752-3464 to schedule a consultation.