In the circulatory system arteries
distribute oxygen-enriched blood throughout the body, and veins return deoxygenated blood back
to the heart. This trek back to the heart is called venous blood flow. The leg veins are at a
greater risk of developing disorders than just about any other part of the circulatory system.
The leg veins must carry large volumes back to the heart traveling uphill and fighting gravity
the entire way. The pumping action of the heart alone is not sufficient to achieve this journey.
Venous blood flow in the legs is aided by 3 important factors: (1) a series of one-directional valves, (2) the
surrounding calf muscle pump, and (3) the elasticity of the vein wall.
Valves are structures within the veins that, when functioning properly, allow blood only to flow in one direction. Muscles
surrounding the vein contract and squeeze in a peristaltic fashion which causes blood to be forced up the leg. It is the vein wall's
elasticity that allows the calf muscle pump to create the peristaltic contractions. In between these contractions, one-way valves
close off to prevent blood from flowing back. This sequence is repeated to the next valve stage until the blood is milked back to
Any malfunction in this system of venous blood flow back to the heart can result in a venous disorder. If a valve is not functioning
properly or if the walls of the vein lose their elasticity, blood pooling and swelling can result.
The pooling and increased weight of blood in the area of the defective valve causes the eventual failure of the adjacent valve.
The cascading effect of the successively collapsing valves leads to incompetence of the involved vein. This progression can
eventually become serious and result in venous disorders including varicosities (vein with a swollen, knotted appearance), edema,
leg pain/fatigue, skin ulcers (result from stagnant, non-circulation blood), and life-threatening thrombosis (blood clot formation).
Venous disorders can also result from inactivity of the lower limb, as in bedridden patients. This is because too great a
burden is placed upon the valve system without the aid of the calf muscle pump.
Improper vein functioning
Proper vein functioning
The cause of venous disorders is not easily identified as a single cause but can be
linked to a combination of factors. Age, heredity, infection, vein wall weakness, trauma or surgery,
and pregnancy are the most common. Obesity, heart disease, improper diet, dehydration, alcohol consumption,
constrictive clothing, hormone therapy/birth control, and standing or sitting for long periods
of time also contribute to the incidence of venous disorders. Some of these factors (heredity,
trauma, aging) are impossible to prevent. The effects of other factors can be minimized with
Symptoms of Venous Disorders include any one or combination of: limb distress, including aching, pain, cramping,
tiredness, or tightness; skin discoloration; skin tender to touch; irregular or lumpy skin surface; presence of
hyphen webs (spider veins); presence of blue protruding veins; or presence of ulcers.
The fact is venous disorders are very common and virtually everyone experiences a decline in leg circulation. Elastic graduated
compression products can be used by anyone both as a treatment to guard against further progression of venous disorders and as a
- Get plenty of exercise.
- Do specific leg exercises.
- Keep your feet higher than your heart.
- Wear graduated compression stockings.
- Maintain your normal weight.
- Avoid excessive heat and direct sunlight.
- Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time whenever possible.