The arteries and veins of the body have been studied for as long as there has been interest in human anatomy. Their significance, though not always understood well, has been one of the most important questions in the history of anatomy and physiology. Ancient medical practitioners did not originally realize that arteries and veins did different things for the body but they did understand that they acted differently when cut, veins were always full of blood and arteries seemed empty. Discovering the relationship between the two took a lot of time and research.
Veins were associated with the liver and their purpose was believed to be as a conveyor of fluids that maintained and nourished the body. In both the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, the arterial and venous systems were thought to be two separate circulatory systems in the body. Even though Leonardo was said to have thought that there was only one circulatory system and that both the veins and arteries were associated with the heart, as a whole most people continued to follow the idea that there were two circulatory systems up until around the 1600’s.
The history of venous disease goes back to the beginning of medicine. Early writings on varicose veins and treatments for them were written as early as 1550 BC. One of the oldest illustrations of a varicose vein is located at the base of the Acropolis in Athens and dates to the fourth century BC. This tablet shows a large leg with a large varicose vein going down the leg. Hippocrates was one of, if not the first, to see a relationship between venous disease and ulceration. He discovered that elevating your leg along with compression lead to an expedited healing time as well as symptom relief.
Vein treatments and surgeries, specifically vein stripping and ligation, were reported to have been done as early as 270 BC in Egypt. Celsus, in first century Rome, realized the importance of the division of incompetent veins and ligation. Galen, in the second century, created a method of what is now called vein stripping and ligation using specially designed hooks. These ideas and techniques paved the way for what is done today to treat venous disease.
Venous disease treatments and procedures continue to evolve as new technology becomes available. With more minimally invasive techniques being possible, ultrasound technology being much improved, and a multidisciplinary approach in use, venous disease treatment has become its own major field of study.