Topics Covered in this Blog:
- Why Do Veins Have Valves?
- What is the Function of Valves in the Veins?
- Open Vein Valves
- Closed Vein Valves
- How do Valves Become Damaged, and What Happens When They Stop Working?
- How Vein Treatment Helps Damaged Veins
- Vein Treatment at USA Vein Clinics
You may hear a lot about veins as they pertain to blood circulation, but you may not be aware of another important element of the circulatory system; vein valves To gain a better understanding of vein disease and issues with circulation, you need to know more about this small component and get the answer to the question, “What are valves in veins?”
The circulatory system consists of veins and arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that bring oxygenated blood full of nutrients from the heart to the rest of the body. Veins are vessels that transport blood without oxygen and nutrients back to the heart. In healthy leg veins, one-way valves allow blood to move only in one direction: towards the heart. To do this, when you walk, your leg muscles squeeze the deep veins of your legs and feet, pushing the non-oxygenated blood back to the heart.
In your veins, one-way valves are placed about one inch apart that keep blood flowing in the right direction. When your leg muscles relax, the valves in your veins close, preventing the backward flow of blood back down the legs.
There are three types of veins in your legs: superficial veins, which lie close to the skin, deep veins, which lie in or beneath the muscles, and perforating veins, which connect the superficial to the deep veins. Deep veins bring the blood back to the major vein in your abdomen called the vena cava, which brings the blood straight to the heart.
Blood flow within your legs occurs mainly through the deep venous system. Femoral veins typically have between one to six vein valves, and popliteal veins often contain between zero to four valves.
Valves in veins are bicuspid, meaning they have two flap-like structures that regulate blood flow. These flaps are made of elastic tissue. The valves’ main job is to keep the blood moving in one direction – back up towards the heart. When the valve is open, blood freely flows upward towards the heart; when the valves are closed, blood cannot flow back towards the legs. The deep veins carry 90% or more of the blood from the legs toward the heart.
As you move your leg, the muscles squeeze the veins, which push your blood towards your heart. When your leg muscles contract, the blood within the deep veins is squeezed upward through the vein and the valves open to allow it to circulate successfully. As the contraction begins, it propels the blood through the vein and prompts the initial opening of the valve. Once it has passed the valve, the blood continues up through the leg, moving past each valve with every muscle pump of the leg.
If you stop moving and your muscle is at rest, the vein valves close. As long as the valves are working properly, the closing of the valves will prevent blood from flowing backward and pooling within the legs. Leg movement that prompts blood flow is referred to as a muscle pump.
Damaged veins contribute to a common condition known as vein disease or venous insufficiency. This may occur when the walls of your vein become
weakened. When valves in veins fail to work properly, the valves do not close, and blood is allowed to flow backward in the wrong direction. Over time, the blood can pool within your legs, which can consequently cause more vein valves to malfunction.
It’s important to remember that blood flow works against gravity. When you are walking or standing, the blood being transported back to the heart may pool in the legs causing many different issues. The pressure in the superficial veins beneath the skin will rise, causing veins to bulge or swell. This pressure results in visible varicose veins that may appear rope-like or raised. Swelling can also contribute to your veins being tender to the touch.
One of the most common symptoms of damaged vein valves is a feeling of heaviness, tiredness, or aching within the legs. This is often felt after you have walked or stood for an extended period of time. As vein disease progresses, fluid may collect in your lower legs or ankles, causing them to swell. Your skin above the ankles and legs may become thin or discolored. Some people may describe the discoloration as being similar-looking to serious bruising.
Left untreated, vein disease can progress to open slow-healing or non-healing wounds that eventually form a venous stasis ulcer. If not cared for properly, venous ulcers can easily become infected. Leg ulcers will continue to reappear if underlying vein disease is not treated.
Vein treatments work to close the diseased veins. Once the malfunctioning veins are successfully closed, blood is naturally rerouted to other, healthy veins. Blood flow through these new veins and resumes instantly. Eventually, the body absorbs the closed vein that is no longer being used. This goal can be achieved through various non-surgical methods, such as the following:
EVLT is used to treat varicose veins using ultrasound to guide a thin laser fiber into the affected vein. The laser energy heats the vein, causing it to close.
With ClariVein, a tiny catheter with a rotating tip uses chemical and mechanical options to close the damaged vein.
This treatment is designed for spider veins that lie close to the skin’s surface. The vein specialist guides the tiny needle into the affected vein and injects a sclerosant solution, which causes the vein’s inner lining to shut off.
Using ultrasound imaging, this treatment works on varicose veins close to the skin’s surface with a sclerosant solution injected into the vein similar to the method for spider veins.
Varithena uses a special foam to close the vein, which is administered through a tiny catheter.
VenaSeal also uses ultrasound to guide the vein specialist to the correct vein where a tiny amount of adhesive is inserted through a catheter.
Unlike in the past, veins are rarely removed and treated with either laser energy or foam treatment. These different ways to seal the vein depend on your individual situation. The doctor will examine your legs and design a personalized treatment plan that fits your unique needs.
These minimally invasive vein treatments allow you to return to your usual activities and require almost no recovery time. The vein specialist will explain any restrictions you have, such as not showering or bathing for the first 24 hours and not swimming for the first week.
You will begin to feel better with less or no pain and swelling and an improved ability to walk longer and further distances.
The vein specialists at USA Vein Clinics will work with you to determine the best treatment to achieve your improved mobility and health goals. Our experienced and empathetic doctors will answer your questions and prepare you for the treatment.
At USA Vein Clinics, we have over 100 vein clinics nationwide. Our expansive network allows us to help thousands of patients daily live without painful vein disease symptoms. We offer office-based treatments that take 15 minutes from start to finish. These treatments are generally covered by most major health insurance plans, making them more affordable.
We work directly with the insurance provider to save time and reduce stress for our patients while maximizing your benefits. Unlike other clinics, our vein doctors specialize in treating all kinds of venous conditions within the lower extremities. It’s important to get treatment before your vein disease progresses. Schedule an initial appointment with us, and let’s get you back to a healthier, more active life today.