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Varicose Veins

Venous veins, or venous insufficiency, is a medical condition where the veins cannot pump enough oxygen-poor blood back to the heart. This is due to damaged or "incompetent" valves which can be caused by trauma to the leg, deep vein thrombosis or genetics. Normally, valves in your veins keep your blood flowing back towards the heart so it does not collect in one place. But the valves in varicose veins are either damaged or missing. This causes the veins to remain filled with blood, especially when you are standing. Veins that have lost their valve effectiveness, become elongated, rope-like, bulged, and thickened. These enlarged, swollen vessels are known as varicose veins and are a direct result of increased pressure from reflux.

Assessment of the vein by ultrasound in the presence of an incompetent valve, demonstrates reflux of blood. Reflux in the vein under investigation is considered to be present if the duration of reverse flow is greater than 0.5 seconds. Treatment of venous insufficiency always includes: elevation of the leg, exercise and use of elastic compression.

People with chronic venous insufficiency may also have:

  • Redness of the legs and ankles
  • Skin color changes around the ankles
  • Varicose veins on the surface (superficial)
  • Thickening and hardening of the skin on the legs and ankles
  • Ulcers on the legs and ankles

Risk factors for venous insufficiency include:

  • History of deep vein thrombosis in the legs
  • Age
  • Being female (related to levels of the hormone progesterone)
  • Genetic factors
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Prolonged sitting or standing