You may recognize the bulging, twisting lines of your varicose veins on your lower leg, but do you know how they got there? To understand leg vein anatomy and how varicose veins form, it is helpful to know the basic facts about vein anatomy. Windward Vein has a few of those basics for you to get you started on your knowledge of how veins work and why – sometimes – they don’t.
The Function of Veins
Veins have the important and sometimes challenging job of carrying blood back to the heart after the arteries have sent the oxygenated blood and nutrients throughout the body. The job can be difficult because the veins don’t have the advantage of getting help from the pumping heart to move the blood through them efficiently. This means the veins have to work hard to push blood back to the heart, particularly when the blood has to get all the way from the foot, up the body and to the chest area.
To do their job properly, veins are designed somewhat differently from arteries. First, veins have thinner walls and less pressure inside them than arteries do. Second, veins have small valves inside that help to move the blood in a single direction through the vessel. Veins also have less muscular and elastic tissue content than arteries, which can make them more susceptible to damage over time.
Deep, Superficial and Perforator Veins
There are three basic types of veins found in the body:
As the name suggests, these veins are located in the deeper portions of the leg and are responsible for carrying the large majority of blood back to the heart. These larger veins are also vulnerable to clot formation, a condition known as deep vein thrombosis or DVT. If the blood clot breaks free and travels back to the lungs, a pulmonary embolism can occur – a potentially deadly condition that restricts blood flow to the lung.
Superficial veins are responsible for bringing blood back from the skin and transferring it to the heart. Superficial veins rest close to the skin’s surface and are often the ones that become visible as varicose or spider veins. They are responsible for carrying about 10 percent of your blood supply back to the heart.
Perforator veins are located between superficial and deep veins. Some perforator veins are also more likely to become varicose veins over time, particularly those located in the lower leg below the knee, known as Boyd’s perforators.
The Importance of Vein Valves
When varicose veins appear, the valves inside the veins are often the primary culprit. These valves work hard to move blood in a single direction to the heart, particularly the ones in the lower leg veins. Over time, they can become damages, which allows blood to reflux back into the vessel instead of moving forward. This reflux can lead to a weakening of the vein and the eventual visible varicose vein. The condition is known as venous reflux or venous insufficiency, and it is responsible for the formation of nearly all varicose veins.
Treating the Damage
When varicose veins appear, they can be accompanied by uncomfortable symptoms like aching, cramping and swelling of the lower leg. The good news is there are a number of minimally-invasive treatments that can eliminate both the veins and their symptoms. At Windward Vein, we offer a variety of treatments that allow us to tailor each procedure to the unique needs of our patients.
If you are suffering with the embarrassment and physical pain of varicose veins, help is available. Contact Windward Vein today at 808-797-2687 to learn more about your choices in varicose vein treatment.