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    What Is Vascular Disease?

    Peripheral Venous Disease and Varicose Veins continued...

    Varicose veins are an example of this. They may bulge like purple ropes under your skin. They can also look like small red or purple bursts on your knees, calves, or thighs. These spider veins are caused by swollen small blood vessels called capillaries. At the end of the day, your legs might ache, sting, or swell.

    More women than men get varicose veins, and they often run in families. Pregnancy, being very overweight, or standing for long times can cause them.

    Because the blood is moving more slowly, it may stick to the sides of the veins, and clots can form.

    Blood Clots in Veins (VTE)

    A blood clot in a vein inside a muscle, usually in your lower leg, thigh, or pelvis, is a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If it breaks loose and travels to your lungs, it becomes a pulmonary embolism (PE). These clots in your veins are called venous thromboembolisms, or VTE.

    They're usually caused by:

    • Conditions that slow blood flow or make blood thicker, such as congestive heart failure and certain tumors
    • Damaged valves in a vein
    • Damaged veins from injury or infection
    • Genetic disorders that make your blood more likely to clot
    • Hormones, such as estrogen from pregnancy and birth control pills
    • Long bed rest or not being able to move much
    • Surgery, especially some operations on your hips and legs

    Damaged vein valves or a DVT can cause long-term blood pooling and swelling in your legs, too. That's called chronic venous insufficiency. If you don't do anything about it, fluid will leak into the tissues in your ankles and feet. It may eventually make your skin break down and wear away.

    Blood Clotting Disorders

    Some illnesses make your blood more likely to form clots. You could be born with one, or something may happen to you. These disorders can cause:

    • Higher-than-normal levels of clot-forming substances, including fibrinogen, factor 8, and prothrombin
    • Not enough blood-thinning (anticoagulant) proteins, including antithrombin, protein C, and protein S
    • Trouble breaking down fibrin, the protein mesh that holds clots together
    • Damage to the endothelium, the lining of the blood vessel

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