What you need to know about circulation, the heart and varicose veins

What you need to know about circulation, the heart and varicose veins

A healthy circulatory and venous system is essential to a healthy heart.

Blood circulates in the arteries and veins, moving from the heart to the feet and up through our brains. Small vessels in the tissue – called capillaries – allow oxygen to be released and used by our cells.

This extensive network of arteries and veins in the body, along with the heart, create the circulatory system. Within the veins are valves that force blood downward by pumping blood back to the heart. Due to disease or damage, the valves inside of the veins might not close completely, which can cause the blood to flow backwards. This is known as venous reflux.

Improper flow of blood is what can lead to varicose veins. Legs are affected the most often from these damaged veins. The result can be swollen veins, leg pain, skin discoloration and open sores, often called ulcers, and even blood clots.

The reasons why these valves fail to push blood upward are due to various factors, including sitting or standing for long periods, heredity, obesity and pregnancy.

Valve failure also can cause knotted and/or distended veins along the legs and feet to appear, which can indicate a venous disorder within the circulatory network.

Varicose vein sufferers often experience aching, swelling, itchiness and a “heavy” feeling in the leg. In addition, those living with varicose veins are more likely to experience spontaneous bleeding – even from a small cut or scrape.

When the circulatory system is functioning normally, a wound heals quickly. But if someone has poor circulation, the healing process slows, and an ulcer can form around the varicose vein.

Many individuals can improve their circulation by being more active, quitting smoking and eating a healthy diet. Foods rich in Omega-3, including salmon, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and walnuts, are just some of the food choices that promote healthy circulation.

Because vein disease results in visible symptoms — such as protruding veins, swollen legs and discolored skin — many people assume varicose veins are simply a cosmetic issue. However, if left untreated, venous disorders can pose serious health risks, such as lower extremity skin ulcerations, predisposition to infections, or a deep vein blood clot called a thrombosis.

Because varicose veins can lead to more serious problems, it is important to seek advice from a trusted medical professional to discuss your situation. Call your doctor immediately if you notice that your varicose veins are bleeding, you suspect a blood clot (thrombosis), or there is a break in the skin that will not heal (ulceration).

San Diego Vein Institute can answer your questions about your varicose veins and help you develop a treatment plan to improve your venous health. San Diego Vein Institute is located at 336 Encinitas Boulevard, Suite 130, Encinitas, CA 92024. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (760) 944-9263 or visit