How Veins Are Supposed To Work

Veins are pipes that carry blood from your legs back to your heart. As you sit or stand the blood has to flow 'uphill' to get back to the heart, and gravity will pull the blood back into the leg veins. To prevent this, the leg veins have one way 'check' valves - blood can flow up but not down - so if a leg vein is working properly the blood can only flow one way - up toward the heart, but gravity cannot pull blood back into your leg vein.

Most vein problems develop when the 'check' valves in the vein malfunction - become 'leaky' - and allows gravity to pull blood back into the leg veins. Gravity pulling blood back into the bad leg vein generates pressure in the legs that leads to achy, tired and painful legs. Also, this back pressure from gravity causes surface veins to dilate and enlarge - these are visible varicose veins. This condition is called Venous Insufficiency.

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Vein Problems And Disorders

Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are enlarged abnormal veins. They appear bulgy, ropey and protrude out from just below the skin.

Varicose veins are common, affecting 20% of adults. Varicose veins occur most commonly in the legs, and are more common in women than in men.

The presence of varicose veins usually is a marker for an underlying vein problem involving veins you cannot see. This vein problem is venous insufficiency.

Treating varicose veins is simple and can be done in the office setting with sclerotherapy or more commonly microphlebectomy resulting in legs that look and feel better.

Standing and sitting cause the varicose veins to bulge from gravity pulling blood into these veins and the pressure from this causes pain, discomfort and varicose veins.

Former Olympic Gold Medalist Summer Sanders recently spoke about her experiences with Varicose Veins.

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Spider Veins

Spider veins are dilated veins that run in the skin layer.

Our skin has a very dense network of tiny veins called capillaries. These veins are so small we cannot see them with the naked eye. These small capillaries dilate and enlarge to the point where they become visible spider veins.

A variant of spider veins are reticular veins. Reticular veins are larger veins that run just below the skin. Reticular veins have a typical blue-green appearance.

Spider veins are common and are more prevalent in women. Many factors contribute to the development of spider veins including family history, female hormones - especially with pregnancy, age, trauma, wear and tear.

Spider veins are benign condition and almost never cause medical problems.

Spider veins are unsightly - the good news is that they are easy to treat. The best treatment for spider veins on the legs is sclerotherapy.

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Achy, Painful, Tired, & Restless Legs

Venous Insufficiency

Veins take blood back to the heart. Normal leg veins are built to be one way. Veins have one way 'check' valves that open to allow blood to flow up towards the heart, but the valves close when gravity pulls blood back into the veins as you sit or stand.

Most vein problems develop when the 'check' valves in a vein malfunction - become 'leaky' - and allows gravity to pull blood back into the leg veins - this is Venous Insufficiency.

Venous Insufficiency can cause many leg symptoms. These symptoms include painful, achy, tired, heaviness, throbbing and restless legs. Leg swelling and cramps or 'charley horses', unsightly and painful varicose veins.

Less common, but more serious symptoms include: lower leg discoloration, itching, eczema, dermatitis and sores or ulcers.

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Leg Discoloration and Leg Ulcers

As described above leg discoloration and venous stasis ulcers are a more serious symptom of the underlying vein problem, Venous Insufficiency. These symptoms do not occur in every patient with Venous Insufficiency. They are the result of many years of back pressure and fluid leaking into the tissue both staining and in severe cases causing break down of the skin and formation of an ulcer. These ulcers can be very painful despite their size, and are best treated with compression, allowing reduction in leg swelling and/or a procedure to fix the underlying vein problem.

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