How Incompetent Veins Produce Venous Disease
The venous system effectively pumps blood out of the legs against gravity unless the valves become incompetent and fail to function normally. Whether in the superficial or deeper veins, incompetent valves produce a reversal in vein blood flow, moving blood back towards the feet when the legs are at rest. The inability of the venous system to drain properly produces increased blood pressure (venous hypertension) in the affected blood vessels that expand or dilate to accommodate the enlarged blood volume.
Restricted venous drainage and increased blood pressure in the surface veins of the leg produces spider veins and varicose veins. When valves in the deeper saphenous and perforator systems become incompetent, severe venous hypertension produces a range of symptoms in the surface veins and surrounding skin including spider veins, varicose veins, leg swelling, leg ulcers and serious infection. Problems in both the saphenous and perforator vein systems are often present in a patient with advanced venous disease.
Vein Diseases include such disorders as spider veins, varicose veins, phlebitis, chronic venous insufficiency and venous stasis leg ulcers.
Spider veins are bright red to blue thread-like veins that may develop on the legs as well as face and neck. Sometimes called thread veins, spider veins occur from abnormal venous blood flow with associated increased pressure in these tiny vessels. This causes them to dilate and become prominent. Spider veins are generally a cosmetic concern but may be one of the earliest signs of venous disease.
Malfunctioning valves in superficial leg veins can reverse normal vein flow back to the heart. As vein flow is compromised, blood leaks backwards towards the feet. The result is restricted venous drainage, increased venous pressure and the development of twisted, distended varicose veins. Varicose veins affect larger surface veins in the legs with the primary areas of venous incompetence involving the Greater Saphenous Vein on the inside of the thigh and calf, the Small Saphenous Vein on the back of the calf and the Perforator veins of the calf.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency
Chronic venous insufficiency or CVI represents a severe venous stasis disorder originating from incompetent valves in major superficial and deep leg veins. As venous congestion worsens from a reversal in blood flow, pressure increases and produces a cluster of symptoms collectively called CVI. Symptoms often include leg pain, night cramps and unusual sensations on the legs, swelling or edema, skin thickening and brownish skin discoloration called hemosiderosis. Commonly associated venous disorders are spider veins, varicose veins, venous stasis leg ulcers and cellulitis, a severe infection of the tissue surrounding an ulcer.
Venous Leg Ulcers
A severe consequence of chronic venous insufficiency or CVI syndrome, venous stasis leg ulcers result from prolonged and extensive venous congestion and hypertension in leg veins. Impaired exchange of oxygen and nutrients with cellular wastes at the capillary level leads to skin discoloration, thickening and ulcers of the lower legs. Almost always, venous stasis leg ulcers are caused by incompetent perforator veins in the calf.