The Histopathology of Varicose Vein Disease

Somers, Pamela; Knaapen, Michiel
October 2006
Angiology;Oct/Nov2006, Vol. 57 Issue 5, p546
Academic Journal
Varicosity is a complex venous pathology affecting the lower extremities. The exact etiology and physiopathology of varicose vein disease remain, however, unclear. Several theories exist from incompetence of the valves to a disturbance of the smooth muscle cells (SMC) and extra-cellular matrix (ECM) organization providing a weakness of the venous wall. Multiple studies have been performed to explain the underlying mechanisms of varicosity inducing alterations in the expression patterns of the endothelium, SMC, and ECM. In that respect, most attention has been focused on the alteration of the endothelium due to blood stasis and hypoxia inducing migration/proliferation of the medial SMC into the intima. Also, studies in the deformation of the ECM induced by alterations of the expression patterns of the metalloproteinases (MMP) and their inhibitors (TIMPs) have been put forward to explain the etiology of varicosity. However, less attention has been paid to the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and menopause, crucial factors to be involved in the etiology of varicosity. Since alteration of the estrogen receptor-β (ERβ) expression could enhance directly the cellular volume of SMC and thus the disorganization of the contractile-elastic units, hypertrophy of SMC must be accounted a pivotal role that could induce the weakness of the venous wall. Altogether, this review summarizes an overview of the latest findings of varicosity with respect to the histopathological changes of the different cellular components of the varicose vein wall related to functional and morphologic alterations.


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