Vein disease is sadly much more common than people imagine, affecting 25 to 40 million Americans every year. It affects more older people than young ones, and for hormonal reasons, more women than men.

Many people incorrectly believe that vein diseases like varicose veins are primarily a “cosmetic concern,” and thus they don’t treat them as if they are real diseases. This is a mistake. Even with varicose veins, untreated vein disease doesn’t just go away or “get better on its own” – it gets worse. And over time, the side effects associated with varicose veins can become so problematic that you can become effectively disabled.

There are two primary categories of vein disease – insufficiency and thrombosis. With insufficiency (the most common cause of varicose veins), the tiny valves that control blood flow and keep it flowing toward the heart become “leaky,” and fail to close properly. This allows blood to flow in a reflux (backwards) direction back into the veins, causing them to swell and become discolored.

The other type of disease that can affect your veins is called thrombosis, which causes blood clots to form inside the veins. The blood clots impair your overall circulation, but there is also a much worse possibility, which is that the clots break loose and travel through your venous system to other locations, where they can cause more serious damage. If these blood clots travel to the brain they can cause a stroke, and if they travel to your lungs they can cause a pulmonary embolism.

Although vein disease has some overt symptoms, it is quite possible to have it and notice no symptoms at all. That is why it is so important to have a venous health screening, especially if you are over the age of 50. These painless, non-invasive screenings can detect vein disease while it is still easily treatable.

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