As we age, many things change. One such thing is our vascular system. Whether by genetics, lifestyle or both our arteries and veins change over time. This usually means that they don’t work as well as they used to. “Circulation” is how most of us refer to the status of our blood flow. What you may not realize is that your circulation from the heart going outward (feeding your hands and feet with oxygenated blood) may be top notch while your veins can’t keep up with getting deoxygenated blood back into your system – or vice versa. When the blood flow going into your legs and feet is decreased, this is called peripheral vascular disease and translates to decreased pulses and sometimes toe tips that are cold, red, purple, etc. Peripheral vascular disease can affect large vessels, but in cases of smoking or certain genetic conditions can affect the very small blood vessels that bring blood to the skin itself.
When you notice that your legs are swelling more than before or that your veins are ‘spidery’ or ‘tortuous’ and prominent, these are all signs of a venous insufficiency. This means that the blood vessels that bring blood out of the feet and hands and back to the heart to be re-oxygenated are over dilated and often have valve insufficiencies. This can result from a life of being on your feet, but again is often related to genetics. These veins can even be painful for some.
If you find that you have pain in your feet, hypersensitivity, a sensation of cramping in your calves when walking certain distances, this is a sign of peripheral vascular disease and should be evaluated. If left undiagnosed, the disease can progress over time and become a hindrance to healing from simple injuries of the feet.
If you find that there is swelling in your legs and feet alongside prominent, dark veins, this should also be assessed. Especially if these veins become painful, be aware that there are interventions available to both improve the appearance of these veins as well as decrease the painful symptoms associated.