Normal leg veins transport blood, against gravity, back towards the heart. One-way valves direct the flow of blood. Morphologic and biochemical abnormalities in the vein wall, in addition to valve malfunction, results in back flow and pooling of blood in the legs. Varicose veins, which appear as blue bulging protrusions beneath the skin, are a manifestation of this vein dysfunction. Venous abnormalities can also occur in smaller veins and venules, resulting in so-called “spider veins”.
Risk Factors for the development of diseased veins and leaky valves include genetics, and increasing age. Studies have shown an strong hereditary component, with a 40% chance of varicose veins if one parent is affected, and upwards of 90% probability if both parents have venous disease. Pregnancy and prolonged standing on a daily basis, can exacerbate venous disorders.
Varicose veins affect more than 20% of adult Canadians. Although these veins can remain asymptomatic, more advanced vein dysfunction commonly occurs over time, with increasing venous pressure leading to bothersome complaints. Symptoms include:
In some people, more advanced vein dysfunction will develop as a result of increasing venous pressure, initiating a cascade of changes in the soft tissue and skin. This can lead to significant complications such as lipodermatosclerosis (dark discolouration, soft tissue thickening/fibrosis), stasis dermatitis (eczema-like rash) and non-healing ulcers. Bleeding and blood clots can also occur.
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We are working to provide comprehensive vein care to all Ontarians.
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