Are Varicose Veins a Sign of Heart Disease?

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American Heart Month takes place each year in February. It’s an important time to focus on heart health and be aware of the dangers of heart disease. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S, and every year more than 600,000 people die from heart disease. February Heart Health Month is good to learn more about heart health awareness, risks, and activities that improve your overall health and wellbeing.

Many of our patients ask if varicose veins are related to heart disease. The presence of varicose veins indicates a problem with moving blood back to the heart for oxygenation. Generally, varicose veins do not put you at a higher risk for cardiac issues. Heart disease and poor circulation are related to the arterial system, while the venous system is linked to varicose veins.

However, in some cases, a cardiac issue can affect the venous system. For example, a patient with heart disease and varicose veins could be at higher risk for developing swelling in the legs or an infection around a varicose vein.

Varicose veins are caused by underlying vein disease, also known as venous insufficiency. This common condition develops when veins are placed under ongoing strain, causing the tiny, one-way valves in your veins to become damaged and eventually malfunction.

Malfunctioning vein valves make it challenging for your body to efficiently send blood back to your heart. Instead, blood begins to pool in various areas of the body –– most commonly, the legs, ankles, and feet. This leads to the formation of varicose veins.

If you are concerned about varicose leg veins, heart disease, and vein disease, keep reading. Although varicose veins are not caused by heart disease, they do have potentially serious health consequences that you should know about.

At USA Vein Clinics, we want to help you understand why varicose veins occur, what your individual risk factors are, and how to find minimally invasive vein treatment when necessary. Here’s what you need to know.

Q & A: Varicose Vein and Heart Disease

Although it is possible to have both heart and vein disease, varicose veins do not necessarily indicate poor heart health. We understand that this can be confusing since both conditions involve blood circulation. Below are some common questions we hear from our patients.

Q: Do varicose veins cause heart problems? 

Varicose veins do not cause heart problems, because they cause blood circulation problems like pooling or reflux (backwards flow), not heart conditions.

Q: Are Varicose Veins a symptom of heart disease?

Even though your veins attach to your heart, having varicose veins is not a symptom of heart disease. The bottom line is that you can have venous issues and still have a perfectly healthy heart.

damaged vein valves

Q: What are the risk factors for vein disease? Are they related to heart disease?

It is important to realize that many of the same risk factors that cause vein disease, such as obesity, inactivity, and poor diet, can also lead to heart disease. If you are at risk, making some recommended lifestyle changes may help you avoid additional health problems.

Three tips to improve vein health

The following tips promote varicose vein health and prevent poor circulation in the arteries (peripheral arterial disease).

  1. Lose weight

Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent varicose veins by reducing pressure on your venous system. It can reduce some of the symptoms from varicose veins, such as heavy, tired legs.

  1. Exercise regularly

Blood pools in your legs and ankles when you sit or stand for long periods. If you have a desk job, commit to a 10-minute walk once a day while at the office. Take a break and put your legs up if you stand for long periods.  Try to find time to exercise, such as walking, gentle yoga, or swimming.

  1. Quit smoking

Smoking reduces blood flow, constricts blood vessels, and thickens the blood. If you want healthy cardiac and venous systems, do not smoke.

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What Are Varicose Vein Symptoms?

Some individuals are surprised to learn that varicose veins are not merely a cosmetic issue. Instead, they are a sign of vein disease and can cause a range of painful symptoms that limit mobility and impact quality of life.

Common varicose vein symptoms include:

  • Heaviness or achiness in the legs
  • Itchiness
  • Discomfort
  • Leg cramps (especially at night)
  • Skin discoloration

If you experience any of the above, we suggest contacting your doctor or a vein specialist for evaluation. Varicose veins can put you at increased risk for developing serious health issues like blood clots and venous ulcers –– open, non-healing wounds that sometimes lead to infection. One type of blood clot that can occur, called Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), is a potentially life-threatening medical condition.

The good news is that non-surgical vein treatment can provide quick symptomatic relief, and it can also help reduce your risks for developing more serious diseases.

There is no reason to live with unsightly, heavy, tired legs these days. Modern advancements in varicose vein treatments are minimally invasive, and patients usually are home on the same day as the procedure.

Are You at Risk for Vein Disease?

As mentioned previously, there are many risk factors that can lead to both heart and vein disease. These risk factors include aspects of your lifestyle like obesity, inactivity, poor diet, and smoking, or health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

Varicose Veins and Heart Disease

When it comes to vein disease, age and genetics play important roles. We tend to develop varicose veins as we get older, though anyone can get them at any age. If you have a close relative with vein problems, you are more likely to have them. Women are also considered to be at increased risk, especially during pregnancy.

Individuals with jobs that require long periods of standing or sitting tend to develop varicose veins more often. If this describes you, we recommend taking frequent breaks throughout the day to move around. You can also ask your doctor about the benefits of wearing compression socks.

Are Spider Veins a Sign of Heart Disease?

Similar to varicose veins, spider veins are not a sign of heart disease and usually indicate underlying vein disease. Although they are often considered only a cosmetic issue, spider veins can cause uncomfortable symptoms like swelling, itching, and tenderness. When left untreated, your symptoms may become progressively worse.

Where Can I Find Varicose Vein Treatment?

Varicose veins are a sign of vein disease and our vein specialists are available to help. We want you to know that vein disease is considered progressive: when left untreated, symptoms usually get worse. No matter what symptoms you’re experiencing, there is no need to suffer any longer.

Our empathetic and skilled doctors perform a range of non-surgical, office-based vein procedures that can quickly alleviate pain and discomfort from varicose veins. Most treatments take about an hour from start to finish. You can return to most normal activities immediately.

Along with varicose veins, we treat spider veins, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), venous ulcers, and other venous conditions. All of our treatments are available at over 90 clinic locations across the country. For your convenience, we also offer telemedicine consultations.

If you are ready to say goodbye to painful vein symptoms, schedule an appointment online today. We look forward to helping you restore your vein health!

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