Venous Reflux Disease
The Venous System Anatomy
The venous system is made up of a network of veins, including:
- Superficial veins-veins located close to the surface of the skin.
- Deep veins-larger veins located deep in the leg.
- Perforator veins-veins that connect the superficial veins to the deep veins.
Superficial veins are located just under the surface of the skin. The great and small saphenous veins are the main superficial leg veins.
The great saphenous runs down the inner thigh and leg. The small saphenous begins behind the knee and runs down the back of calf. Both of these veins branch out into a huge network of smaller superficial veins.
In healthy veins, blood flows from superficial veins and their branches through perforator veins and into the deep veins.
Deep veins are larger veins that pump blood back up to the heart. They are found in the muscle and can only be seen with the help of ultrasound. With every step you take, the calf muscles compress deep veins, acting as a pump to force blood toward the heart.
When deep vein valves fail, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can occur. Failed deep veins can be improved with compression therapy and by treating superficial veins.
Perforating veins — or perforators — carry blood from the superficial veins to the deep veins. When the valves of perforator veins don’t work properly, blood is pushed back into the superficial veins. This worsens existing varicose veins and can lead to skin changes and the development of venous ulcers.
While problems with superficial veins are visible to the eye, there could be much more going on that you cannot see. Using ultrasound, our team of board-certified vascular physicians can view the entire network of diseased veins. Finding the deeper source of visible varicose veins is important for developing an effective treatment plan.
Understanding Venous Reflux Disease
More than 30 million Americans suffer from varicose veins, or the more serious form venous insufficiency, otherwise known as venous reflux disease. The Tri-City Vein Center team uses advanced techniques for the diagnosis and treatment of venous reflux disease. Healthy leg veins contain valves that open and close to assist the return of blood back to the heart. Venous reflux disease develops when the valves that keep blood flowing out of the legs and back to the heart no longer function, causing the blood to pool in the legs.
It can cause these common signs and symptoms:
- Varicose Veins
- Leg or ankle swelling
- Leg heaviness and fatigue
- Leg pain, aching or cramping
- Burning or itching of the skin
- Restless legs
- Skin changes or rashes
- Ulcers, open wounds, or sores
Venous disease is more common in women than in men, but many risk factors can contribute to the presence of venous reflux, including:
- Family history
- Heavy lifting
- Multiple pregnancies
- Prolonged standing
Venous reflux disease is progressive, symptoms can worsen over time if left untreated and can have a significant negative impact on your life. It can lead to serious health problems including inflammation, infections, and chronic wounds. As an added benefit, legs that receive treatment for venous disease develop a smoother, more attractive appearance.
Venous reflux disease can often be the culprit behind uncomfortable varicose veins. Varicose veins are bulging veins that frequently occur in the legs, ankles, and feet. You are more at risk for varicose veins as you become older, have a family history, overweight, female, lack of exercise, and standing or sitting for long periods of time. Varicose veins are also common in pregnant women. Many people do not experience any symptoms of varicose veins, however, if left untreated can pose a health risk.
Symptoms of varicose veins may include:
- Pain in the legs
- Fatigue or weakness in the legs
- Ulcers in the skin near affected veins
To help reduce your risk of developing venous reflux disease, follow these tips:
- Eat a healthy diet
- If you are a smoker, quit smoking
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding wearing tight clothing
- Losing weight
- Avoid prolonged sitting or standing
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