Are Hypertension and Venous Hypertension the Same Thing?

The simple answer is no. Hypertension, better known as high blood pressure is a systemic disease. That means that it affects the entire body…. system wide. When your blood pressure is taken, the top number represents the pressure in the arteries when your heart is contracting and the lower number is the pressure in the arteries when your heart is at rest. Arteries and Veins, while both carry blood, are structured differently because they do different functions.

Arteries carry the blood from the heart to all the tissues in the body supplying oxygen and nutrients for proper functioning. They are under higher pressure than the veins and are able to sustain these higher pressures because the walls are made of more muscle fiber than vein walls. They have the ability to distend and contract with greater strength than a vein. Think of it as tougher elastic. The pressures in the arteries are constantly fluctuating that is why you get different numbers when you check your blood pressure at different times. It is just a reflection of the pressure that is present in that moment in time. Normal blood pressure should measure below 140 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) for the top number and below 90 mmHg for the bottom number. Many things can affect the blood pressure. Other medical conditions, aging, level of hydration and activity levels all can alter our blood pressure as can stress, anxiety or emotional situations. When you check your pulse in your wrist, you are feeling an artery.

Veins carry the blood which has become less oxygenated and lacks nutrients back to the heart and lungs for replenishment. While the blood is traveling through the veins back to the heart, the body continues to use oxygen and nutrients from the diminished supply so the better the flow of blood from the veins to the heart, the better supply of oxygen and nutrients is available. The vein system is under much lower pressure than the arterial system. When you are lying flat in bed, the pressure in your veins is 20 mmHg and when you stand upright the pressure increases to 100 mmHg. Veins walls have less muscle fiber in them and do not have the ability to stretch and contract as effectively as arteries.

Pressure in the arteries does effect the pressure in the veins. The higher arterial pressures “push” the blood into the veins in the tissues encouraging the upward flow of blood back to the heart. The contraction of the heart as well as the movement of the diaphragm when we breathe creates a negative pressure that “pulls” the blood back towards the heart. The venous system is actually quite a passive system with the only truly active component being the calf muscle. As our heel hits the ground and then the calf muscle contracts with walking, it squeezes the deep vessels in our lower leg, propelling the blood back towards the heart. So at times when we are sitting or standing in one position, our body relies on the truly passive system to return the blood to the heart. To help this passive system, the veins have one way valves in them that close in between our heart beating, our breathing and the calf muscle contracting to prevent the backwards flow of blood away from the heart.

Venous hypertension is the pressure from congestion of blood in the veins that results in over dilation of the veins. It is the failure of the system to return the blood back to the heart effectively. Once over dilated, the valve leaflets do not match up which further increases the congestion in the veins and the vein walls lose their ability to contract, like elastic that lost its stretch. These over dilated veins are known as varicose veins and result from venous hypertension. Venous hypertension can occur in people with completely normal blood pressure.

If you suspect you may have venous hypertension or can see varicose veins, you should be evaluated to determine if treatment is appropriate for you.  Veins that are diseased serve no healthy function in the body and can make some conditions worse. We welcome you to call us to make an appointment!

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