Venous and Arterial Blood Flow
Arterial blood flow, highly pressurized blood that is directed from the heart and out to the body, delivers oxygen to every tissue. Following full body circulation, blood devoid of oxygen needs additional assistance to make its way back to your heart. Healthy, elastic veins conduct smooth blood flow in a forward moving direction against gravity from the lower half of the body. Veins in the lower legs and trunk rely on the assistance of supportive muscles mainly the calf muscles, to move venous blood upward.
As deoxygenated blood (where oxygen is extracted) collects in the legs, the calf muscles contract and blood is pumped within the deep veins to the upper body. To ensure this upward and consistent flow, valves containing two flaps open and close as blood moves forward. These valves block backward blood flow so that no excess blood is left to pool in the legs. As you can imagine, the veins are not as thick as your arteries and can suffer from high pressures when this residual blood collects at this point. Surface veins are deferred to when blood flow at a deeper level is rerouted to improve any imbalance of pressure. What may begin as small web-like clusters of spider veins and larger varicose veins can become a chronic venous condition that affects more than just superficial veins.
What is venous insufficiency and how does it become chronic?
Insufficient vein function—via faulty valves and stretched walls—classifies damaged veins that inhibit your blood flow in the limbs. This condition is the underlying cause of your varicose and spider vein development. There are, however, additional factors that can affect your body’s circulation within the deepest veins as well as those on the superficial side. Venous insufficiency is a common vein condition that affects thousands of people all over the United States. It is estimated that over 40 percent of men and women have some classification of venous insufficiency; even more still are unaware of these conditions until mobility is affected and comfort during daily activities is reduced. When the condition becomes chronic, deep vein disease can have an effect on the heart and lungs.
These deep vein conditions are referred to as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and thrombophlebitis which have the potential to form blood clots and cause a pulmonary embolism to occur. While not all patients that see surface veins have deep vein conditions, it is recommended that anyone with varicose veins or developing symptoms should have an ultrasound vein exam. Without a diagnosis, deep vein disease produced by CVI can be damaging to the body and in the most serious case can cause a stroke or heart attack.
Symptoms of venous insufficiency include:
- Numbness in the upper and lower limbs
- Tingling or itching in the legs and restlessness
- Swelling or edema
- Redness and discoloration paired with any symptoms above
- Ulcers from burst varicose and spider veins
- Chronic fatigue
- Intense skin dryness or rough texture (abnormal changes)
- Cold appendages
Please call our office at Carolina Vein Associates for more information on venous insufficiency and to schedule your vein exam at (704) 684-4511.