Veins are blood vessels responsible for carrying oxygen-depleted blood to your heart for reoxygenation. There are a range of vein conditions that people seek treatment for. Some, like spider veins, don’t cause physical discomfort but can affect a person’s self-esteem due to their appearance. Others, like varicose veins, can cause physical discomfort and pain, while deep vein thrombosis is often a serious medical issue that can be fatal.
Vein Care is a leading provider of medical solutions for vein conditions in Melbourne. Have a look at the different types of veins and their role in the circulatory system, and learn about different vein conditions, symptoms and available treatments. Contact our team to find out how we can help you
What are Veins?
Veins are an essential part of our body’s circulatory system. These blood vessels are responsible for carrying blood low in oxygen to your heart, working together with arteries, other blood vessels and your heart to keep blood moving throughout your body. Veins hold the most blood, with 75 per cent of your blood being in your veins.
Your veins form an extensive network of blood vessels that wind through your entire body. You can think of it like an upside down tree with veins and other blood vessels branching from your heart out to the rest of your body. While veins are responsible for carrying oxygen-poor blood back to your heart, arteries are responsible for carrying oxygen-rich blood the other way.
What Makes Blood Flow in the Veins?
Oxygen-rich blood flows from high pressure areas to regions with lower pressure through your heart’s pulse and blood pressure, a force called ventricular contraction. Blood flow in your veins is not powered by ventricular contraction, however, instead relying on skeletal muscle action, respiratory movements and smooth muscle contractions in venous walls. This means your leg muscles function as a second heart of sorts, pumping deoxygenated blood back up to your heart.
The 4 Different Types of Veins in Your Body
There four types of veins that play a role circulating blood throughout your body:
- Deep Veins have a corresponding artery close by and are located within the muscle tissue.
- Superficial Veins sit close to the surface of the skin and don’t have corresponding arteries.
- Systemic Veins are located all throughout the body from your arms to your legs and transport oxygen-depleted blood back to your heart.
- Pulmonary Veins transport oxygen-rich blood from your lungs to your heart. Each lung features two sets of pulmonary veins, a left and right one.
Different vein conditions affect different types of veins, which we’ll explore in greater detail below.
The Difference Between Pulmonary and Systemic Veins
Veins are organised into a complex network called the venous system, which connects your veins with other blood vessels and organs throughout your body. This system features two main circuits – the systemic vein circuit and the pulmonary vein circuit. Systemic veins take freshly oxygenated blood leaving your heart and into your arteries, which branch off into smaller blood vessels called arterioles, then capillaries.
Once the oxygenated blood reaches your capillaries, it feeds the oxygen to your body’s tissues and picks up waste products like carbon dioxide. After this, the now oxygen-poor blood is carried by your veins back to your heart to get refuelled with oxygen. Here, it completes the pulmonary circuit where your blood moves into your lungs, gets refuelled with oxygen and then returns to your heart through pulmonary veins. Your heart then pumps out this oxygen-rich blood to recommence the systemic circuit.
Common Conditions and Disorders that Affect Veins
There are a number of vein conditions and disorders that can affect your body, including:
- Spider Veins: Also called telangiectasias, spider veins are small, damaged blood vessels visible right below your skin’s surface. They can resemble spider webs or tree branches. They are typically harmless.
- Varicose Veins: These large, swollen veins can appear as bulging knots above the surface of the skin. Depending on their severity, they can be anywhere from harmless to causing throbbing aches and pains.
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): This is when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, typically your leg. This can cause life-threatening pulmonary embolism if the clot travels to your lungs.
- Superficial Thrombophlebitis: When an inflamed superficial vein just below your skin develops a blood clot. In most cases, these clots are less serious than DVT but can travel to a deeper vein and become an issue.
- Chronic Venous Insufficiency: A one way valve in your leg can become damaged, causing blood to collect in the superficial and deep veins. This can be caused by DVT.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Vein Problems
While the signs and symptoms of vein problems depend on the specific condition, common symptoms include:
- Pain or tenderness
- Swelling in legs, ankles or feet, especially after standing for long periods
- Discoloration or noticeably bulging veins
- Aches and throbbing in legs
- Tiredness or lack of strength in legs
- Skin that appears leathery on legs
- Itchy or flaking skin on legs or feet
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to get medical advice. Many vein problems are easier to treat when caught early and it’s crucial to catch DVT before it results in a pulmonary embolism.
Treatments Available for Vein Problems
Treatments for vein conditions also vary depending on the particular issue, ranging from surgical and non-surgical medical procedures to over-the-counter medication and lifestyle changes. To eliminate DVT and other issues related to blood clots, blood thinners are commonly used. Clot-dissolving drugs and surgical procedures are rarely recommended but may be a good option if you can’t take anticoagulants.
Varicose veins and spider veins treatment options include:
- Sclerotherapy and Microsclerotherapy
- Ultrasound Guided Sclerotherapy (UGS)
- Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT)
- Ambulatory Phlebectomy
These procedures are minimally invasive, typically involving lasers and injections. Other ways you can help your veins can include exercising, improving diet and nutrition and losing weight. You can also wear compression stockings to minimise swelling.
One of the most common vein conditions, varicose veins are highly visible systemic or superficial veins that appear twisted, bulging and discoloured. Most commonly found in the legs, with common causes including:
- Ageing: Varicose veins regularly occur as part of the natural ageing process
- Obesity: People with obesity are typically at higher risk of developing varicose veins
- Hereditary: Families with a history of varicose veins will often pass the genes down the generations
- Hormonal: Pregnancy and menopause may lead to the development of varicose veins
- Occupational: People who sit or stand in one place for long periods of time are often more susceptible
Varicose veins can be harmless or cause aches, pain and uncomfortable swelling for some people. Vein Care offers a range of treatments for varicose veins, such as Sclerotherapy, Ultrasound Guided Sclerotherapy (UGS), Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT) and Ambulatory Phlebectomy, at our three Melbourne locations.
Found on the legs and face, spider veins are actually burst capillaries, smaller blood vessels just under the surface of the skin. Usually red or blue in colour, spider veins can develop due to multiple reasons, including hormonal changes, occupations which involve standing for long periods, alcohol consumption, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Microsclerotherapy is the most common spider veins treatment, with results usually noticeable within just a few weeks.
Reticular veins present as short, jagged lines that sit under the surface of the skin and are typically red or blue. They are attributed to improper valve closure within your veins which can cause blood to flow backward. Reticular veins often show up in branch-like patterns similar to spider veins but can cause discomfort. Reticular veins can be caused by larger varicose veins, but usually don’t protrude the same way. Depending on the circumstances, treatments can include Sclerotherapy or Ambulatory Phlebectomy.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
One of the most serious vein conditions, forming a blood clot in the deep veins of the leg that could block the artery, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can prove fatal if not properly treated. This life-threatening condition could be caused by heart conditions, blood clotting disorders or untreated varicose veins, along with advanced age, smoking and long-distance travel. As it’s such a serious condition, treatment should be sought immediately if you notice deep vein thrombosis symptoms, such as excessive swelling of the legs and feet, significant cramping pains and severe leg pains. DVT can be diagnosed with a Vascular Ultrasound or a blood test.
Chronic Venous Disorder Insufficiency
Venous insufficiency is a condition where your veins struggle to send blood from your limbs back to your heart. This can cause blood to pool in veins, most commonly affecting your legs. Venous insufficiency treatment varies depending on whether the cause is due to blood clots or untreated varicose veins. Some options for venous disorder treatment insufficiency include compression stockings, Sclerotherapy and Ambulatory Phlebectomy.
What Can I Do to Take Care of My Veins?
There are many ways you can help take care of your veins in your everyday life, whether you’ve already been diagnosed with a vein condition or are at risk of developing one. This includes avoiding prolonged inactivity. Remember that even when you’re resting, your heart and blood vessels are working hard to circulate blood around your body. That’s why it’s important to do what you can to keep your blood flowing smoothly.
If you sit all day for work, try to get up every 30 minutes for a couple of minutes. While sitting, flex your ankles and lift your lower legs up intermittently throughout the day. The more you move your legs, the more your muscles can help your veins pump blood up to your heart.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables to maintain a healthy weight and ensure you get nutrients like folic acid and flavonoids, which are associated with good vein health. Aim to get 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week, such as walking, running or skipping.
Book a Consultation Today at Vein Care in Melbourne
Vein Care offers proven medical solutions for vein conditions at our three conveniently-located clinics in the Melbourne area at Boronia, Camberwell and Sydenham. Whether you’re experiencing deep vein thrombosis symptoms and need urgent treatment or want to chat with our team about getting rid of unsightly spider veins, call us now on 1300 730 100 or contact us online.