Ask most people to describe what comes to mind for them when they hear the words “vein disease,” and they’ll probably answer, “Varicose veins.” Ask them to expand upon this, and they’ll say something like, “It’s an old folks’ disease.” But that’s not what a Hawaii vein specialist would say.
Even though this last comment is not completely true – varicose veins and other forms of vein disease can occur at any age, even in children and teenagers – you can certainly understand why this association vein disease with age came about. After all, we tend to see the only visible symptom of vein disease – varicose veins – primarily in older people, so it is logical to believe that it only affects older people. Statistically, this perception is even somewhat true, because most cases of vein disease really do affect mainly older people. The question we’ll be addressing in this article is WHY this is true.
Your circulatory system is a machine that has been running since the day you were born, without either rest or “preventive maintenance”
Your veins are an integral part of a complex engine – your circulatory system – that by definition has been pumping blood and nutrients through your body 24/7 every single moment of your life. Although blood pressure is a little lower during the night while you sleep, your veins never get to stop pumping blood. And unlike arteries, your veins don’t even have internal muscles to pump the blood with; they have to rely on the motion of nearby muscles in your arms and legs to squeeze the veins and cause blood to flow through them back to your heart and lungs. The thing that makes this process work is a series of tiny, one-way valves in each vein that react to the constriction of nearby muscles by opening to allow blood to flow through. In a healthy circulatory system, these venous valves then close, preventing blood from flowing back into them and pooling there.
The natural process of aging produces “wear and tear” on these tiny valves, and as a result they can become weak and stop closing properly after the blood passes through them. This causes a condition called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), which allows blood to flow “backwards” into the veins, causing them to swell and take on the bluish-purple color of deoxygenated blood. And this, in turn, causes what we see on the surface of the skin as varicose veins.
Most varicose veins and other vein diseases are caused by aging
There are other reasons why venous valves can fail – such as accident or trauma or the effects of certain diseases and medications – but the primary reason that CVI and varicose veins occur is aging. Your Hawaii vein specialist know your risk of developing varicose veins at age 60 is several times higher than your risk of developing them at age 40, especially if you have other risk factors like obesity, smoking, lack of exercise, and a family history of vein disease.
Aging is also often the primary cause of another common vein disease that is far more serious than CVI, deep vein thrombosis, or DVT. If you have this condition, blood clots begin to form in the deep veins of your legs, where they impair your circulation and your overall health. But the real danger of DVT is that these blood clots can travel through your veins to your lungs (where they can cause a pulmonary embolism) or brain (where they can cause a stroke). These side effects of vein disease kill 300,000 Americans every year, most of whom never even knew they were sick.
So…everyone is aging…how do we protect ourselves against vein disease?
The most important thing you can do to keep your veins healthy as you age is to get a venous health screening from a Hawaii vein specialist and find out exactly what your risk for vein disease is. These screenings are painless, non-invasive, take only about an hour, and are performed in the comfort of your Big Island vascular doctor’s offices, but can accurately detect all known vein diseases if you have them and assess your risk of getting them if you don’t. So don’t just wonder whether you are at heightened risk of developing vein disease – find out. You can do this by calling one of the best vein treatment centers in Maui at Vein Clinics of Hawaii and scheduling a screening. If we find evidence of vein disease, we can tell you about the treatment options to get rid of it, and if we don’t, we can give you tips to help you prevent it. Call today or go online…you’ll be happy you did.