How does the circulation system work?
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. In order 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 there are one-way valves that are placed about one inch apart that keep blood flowing in the right direction. When your leg muscles relax, the valves inside 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.
What do valves in veins do?
Blood flow within your legs occurs mainly through the deep venous system. Femoral veins typically have between one to six 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 and 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 successfully circulate. 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.
How do valves become damaged?
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.
What happens when vein valves don’t work?
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 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.
How vein treatment helps damaged veins
Vein treatments like Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT), Ultrasound-Guided Sclerotherapy (USGS), and Varithena 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 resumes instantly. Eventually, the closed vein that is no longer being used is absorbed by the body.Unlike in the past, veins are rarely ever removed and instead treated with either laser energy or foam treatment. These different ways to seal the vein depends on your individual situation. The doctor will examine your legs and designs a personalized treatment plan that fits your unique needs.
Vein Treatment at USA Vein Clinics
At USA Vein Clinics, we have close to 80 vein clinics nationwide. Our expansive network allows us to help thousands of patients every day live without painful vein disease symptoms. We offer office-based treatments that take 15 minutes from start to finish. Unlike other clinics, our vascular 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.