Understanding Vein Health
How Veins Work
Normally, blood flows through veins out of the legs and arms back to the heart. Small valves in the veins enable the blood to flow in the right direction and prevent blood from flowing backwards and pooling in the veins of the legs and arms.
A clot (thrombosis) in the deep veins of legs or arms (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT) leads to an obstruction of blood outflow from the extremities back to the heart. Acute leg or arm swelling and pain, therefore, result. This is called acute DVT.
When the body tries to heal from these clots, the valves in the veins are often damaged. The obstruction of the veins and the destruction of valves lead to impaired blood flow.
If a vein is completely blocked, neighboring smaller veins may enlarge to bypass the obstruction. These bypassing veins are called collaterals and can get quite large, particularly in the pelvis and abdomen in patients who have thrombosis of the big veins in the abdomen (vena cava) or pelvis (iliac veins). Such collaterals can sometimes be seen as prominent veins underneath the skin.
If good collaterals have formed, symptoms of leg swelling and pain may not occur or may only be mild. However, in some people collaterals do not get very large and can, therefore, not carry all the blood needed to drain the legs or arms; this then leads to chronic leg or arm swelling, pressure, and pain.
At every new patient visit, we listen to your concerns and specifically tailor your diagnostic work-up to ensure we get a complete assessment of your entire circulatory system (venous, arterial, and lymphatic).
During your consultation and ultrasound, we also perform complimentary arterial testing for all of our vein patients. If we identify an abnormality, we work with some of the most highly capable specialists to address your arterial disease as a team to ensure your circulation is returned back to normal.
Lymphatics and the Lymphatic System
The third component of the circulatory system is the lymphatic system, which is composed of lymph nodes located throughout your body and the tiny vessels that connect them called lymphatics.
The lymphatic system is very important and performs a lot of complex functions, including testing of the body’s fluid to identify bacteria and placing the leftover fluid that is not picked up by the veins back into circulation.
While there are a number of things that can damage the lymphatic system, one of the most common causes is long-standing venous disease (chronic venous insufficiency). Abnormal pressures in the venous system can overwhelm and damage the lymphatic system, leading to swelling of the legs that is difficult to control.
“When you visit us at The Vein Center at Water’s Edge Dermatology we not only listen to your concerns about veins but we evaluate the entire circulatory system, which includes veins, arteries, and lymphatics. Although each is distinct and complex in its own nature, all these components fit together like a puzzle to ensure you receive the oxygen, nutrients, bacteria-fighting ability, hormones, and everything else the body carries, to live a normal life. Some would say this may be the most important part of the human body because what good are the goods if you cannot deliver them?” – Luke Maj, MD, MHA
Understanding how the entire circulatory system works and addressing all three major components is the key to our success at The Vein Center at Water’s Edge Dermatology. We make sure that when you complete your treatments with us, you will LOVE your legs again!