Vein Overview

The Venous System Anatomy

The venous system is made up of a network of veins, including:

  • Superficial veins - veins located close to the surface of the skin.
  • Deep veins- larger veins located deep in the leg.
  • Perforator veins - veins that connect the superficial veins to the deep veins.


Vein Disease: Varicose and Spider Veins

What are varicose and spider veins?

Varicose veins are abnormal, dilated blood vessels most commonly seen in the legs. They may appear as swollen, twisted clusters of blue or purple veins. Most commonly varicose veins are caused by weakening of the blood vessel walls and valves causing “pooling” and distortion of otherwise normal veins. Varicose veins may also be surrounded by thin, red capillaries known as spider veins (group of tiny blood vessels located close to the surface of the skin, also called telangiectasias). Spider veins may also be present without varicose veins.


What is the Difference Between Varicose Veins and Spider Veins?

Varicose veins and spider veins are both visible surface symptoms of venous insufficiency, the inability of diseased leg veins to push blood back up towards the heart. The surface veins become distended and prominent because blood that should normally circulate through the body is instead accumulating in the legs.


Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are a medical condition, larger and more serious manifestations of venous reflux disease. The swollen vessels can protrude several millimeters beyond the skin surface and can become knotted and tangled. Varicose veins are frequently accompanied by clinical symptoms such as pain, throbbing, burning sensations, muscle cramps and fatigue, and can progress to leg ulcers, blood clots and other health-endangering conditions.

If you suffer from varicose veins, you’re a member of a very large club. Some 25 million Americans face a daily struggle with the swollen, ropey veins that can cause throbbing pain, severe swelling, and heavy, tired legs.

Half of all Americans over 50, and two-thirds of women over 60, have the condition. And many have dealt with it for decades, because varicose veins can appear even in teenagers too young to vote.

Heredity is a factor in venous reflux disease – if your parents or siblings have had varicose veins, you're more likely to develop them – and people who are obese or have had multiple pregnancies are particularly susceptible, because the extra weight adds strain to the veins. Women are more vulnerable to the problem than men, partly because the hormonal changes brought on by menstruation, menopause and hormone-based drug therapy can relax vein walls and cause venous reflux.

Your lifestyle, particularly physical activity, can affect your odds of developing varicose veins as well. People whose careers require them to stand in place for long periods of time – nurses, teachers, waitresses, flight attendants and other service personnel, for example – have a higher-than-average risk of venous disease. So do people who do a good deal of heavy lifting.

Venous reflux or venous insufficiency develops when the valves that usually keep blood flowing out of your legs become damaged or diseased.
Once it appears, venous reflux disease never goes away by itself – it's a progressive condition that can only worsen unless treated. Fortunately, the minimally-invasive, device-based advances in medical technology that have so profoundly impacted heart, lung and brain surgery in recent years are now having a similarly revolutionary impact on the treatment of varicose veins.

The next-generation VNUS ClosureFAST™ catheter represents the cutting edge of vein treatment technology which is available at Chicago’s Lift Laser and Body.



Spider Veins

Spider veins are thin surface veins that turn blue or red under the strain of the venous reflux and affect the appearance of the location where they occur. Spider veins are considered a cosmetic problem, rarely causing physical discomfort, and can be addressed with a variety of non-invasive, techniques.

Spider veins can be caused by the back up of blood as well as from sun exposure, injury and hormone changes.


What are symptoms of abnormal veins?

Abnormal veins, although usually unsightly, do not always cause symptoms. However, frequently varicose veins do cause symptoms which may include:

  1. Tired, painful, or “heavy” legs
  2. Itching
  3. leg swelling
  4. Restless leg syndrome
  5. Skin discoloration or ulcers

Problems associated with varicose veins are usually worse after prolonged standing or sitting. Symptoms can also worsen during pregnancy.


How common are varicose veins and spider veins and what causes them?

Up to 60 percent of the population may suffer from varicose or spider veins so it is very common. Varicose veins occur when healthy vein walls become weak and the vein enlarges. Blood can “pool” or collect inside the vein. Varicose veins are related to increased pressure in the leg veins or defective valves in the veins.

The exact cause of varicose veins is unknown, but there are a number of factors that contribute to the development of varicose and spider veins, including:

  1. Heredity/family history of varicose veins
  2. Advancing age
  3. Prolonged standing (especially work related)
  4. obesity
  5. Hormonal influences such as pregnancy, menopause or the use of birth control pills
  6. Prolonged sitting with legs crossed
  7. A history of blood clots
  8. Previous injury to the veins



Understanding Venous Reflux Disease

Healthy leg veins contain valves that open and close to assist the return of blood back to the heart. Venous reflux disease develops when the valves that keep blood flowing out of the legs and back to the heart become damaged or diseased. As a result, vein valves will not
close properly, leading to symptoms of:

  • Leg heaviness and fatigue
  • Skin changes and skin ulcers
  • Varicose veins
  • Pain
  • Swollen limbs

Superficial venous reflux disease is progressive — symptoms can worsen over time if left untreated.


Finding a solution to leg pain and varicose veins

The first step to solve vein problems is to schedule an appointment with a vein specialist. At Chicago’s Lift Laser and Body center you will find not only qualified and friendly staff but a wide range of technologies available to help you solve your vein problems.


What should I expect at my appointment?

During a physical exam, we will check your legs while you are standing. Your doctor may also suggest that you have a painless ultrasound scan to check the blood flow in your leg veins.

Call 847-995-9000 for more information about our vein treatment programs or to schedule a consultation!