The veins (venous) also referred to as blood vessels are tubes or ducts that transport blood to the heart. The veins contribute to our circulatory system by carrying oxygen-poor blood from the leg back to the heart.
Venous Circulatory System
The venous circulatory system is made up of the veins, one-way valves and the muscles and tendons surrounding the deep veins (calf, thigh and foot pump).
We have three kinds of veins: superficial veins which lie on top of the leg muscles, closely beneath the skin; deep veins which lie within the muscle spaces. Most blood is carried away from the leg by the deep veins; perforator veins which connect the superficial and deep veins. Moreover, there’re three sites of the veins: tibial or peroneal vein in the calf; popliteal vein behind the knee; femoral vein in the thigh. The veins are characterized by the ability to adjust its normal shape upon contraction and relaxation of the leg muscle.
The valves of the veins help to ensure one-way direction of blood flows from the leg to the heart. Venous valves are made up of two leaflets that shut when filled with blood to prevent the blood from flowing back to the leg.
Calf, thigh and foot pump
During the contraction of the leg muscle, the blood is pumped out of the leg and passed through opened venous valves. The venous valves will shut upon relaxation of the leg muscle. The calf, thigh and foot pump work together to carry the blood from one site of the leg to the other to finally reach the heart. This process is called the venous pump. However, the calf muscle is the most efficient and main contributor of venous pump.
Venous Disorders: Venous Insufficiency
Venous insufficiency is a disturbance of the blood flow from the leg veins because of the damage of the veins itself or the valves; the veins are dilated or enlarged; the valves become incompetent. This disorder is often accompanied by leg pain and swelling.
There’re several causes of venous insufficiency include: damaged or incompetence venous valves, obstruction of deep venous system, Inherited absence or malformation of valves in the venous system and regurgitation from deep to superficial venous system
Factors that increase the risk for developing venous insufficiency disease include: deep vein thrombosis (DVT), varicose veins, weak leg muscle, post phlebitic syndrome, congestive heart failure, pregnancy, being overweight, trauma, family history, advanced age, lack of activity and prolonged muscle inactivity.
Symptoms of venous insufficiency include: ankle, leg and feet swelling, heavy and aches feeling of calves, pain during walking, reddish-brown discoloration of skin, varicose veins, leg ulcers. Visit Thigh Swelling – Upper Leg Swelling to learn about swelling in the thigh.
Causes of leg swelling in venous insufficiency disease
Venous insufficiency will cause the blood flow backup into the leg and increase pressure in the veins. The blood backup and increased pressure will cause fluid leaks into the surrounding tissues and water retention in the legs start to occur. Water retention is often localized in the lower extremities which can be seen as ankle, leg and feet swelling. Swelling usually occurs in the affected limb only thus there might be swelling in one leg (right leg swelling or left leg swelling) or in both legs.
Venous insufficiency may progress to increased hydrostatic pressure, venous hypertension and ultimately dermal ulceration.
You can prevent from developing venous insufficiency and other venous diseases by no smoking, follow a low salt and high fiber diet, keep an ideal body weight, wear compression garments and improve venous return by elevating legs above the heart; avoiding prolonged sitting and standing; avoiding sitting with legs crossed; and increasing your physical activities.
Venous insufficiency is usually not considered as serious health risk and only treated by controlling ankle, leg and feet swelling. However, in more severe cases of venous insufficiency, sclerotherapy and other surgical procedures such as ablation, bypass surgery, ablation and valve repaid might be needed.
Controlling water retention in legs
Water retention in legs is controlled by improving venous return and wearing compression stockings to help promoting smoothness flow of the blood from the veins to the heart. This way, ankle, leg and feet swelling can be reduced. Compression therapy might be needed for the rest of patient’s life.