Your legs have a tough life. Not only are they tasked with bearing the weight of your body as you move through the day, they work against gravity to return blood to your heart. At the end of the artery system, blood movement can no longer rely on pressure from the beating of your heart. Veins are made to assist this one-way flow.
When they fail, you may notice that your legs and ankles start to swell, particularly if you’ve been standing or sitting for long stretches of time. This could be a sign of developing venous insufficiency.
It’s time for a visit to Cardiac and Vascular Interventions of New Jersey to discover the nature and extent of your vein issues. Treatments and lifestyle changes can help restore your legs to more normal conditions while relieving the swelling. Here’s what you need to know about the condition.
The anatomy of veins
To assist the uphill direction of blood flow, particularly through the legs, veins have a series of valves along their length that open to permit blood to pass, while closing between beats of your heart. This action prevents the backward flow of blood, holding it against gravity.
However, the veins aren’t alone in this effort to return blood to the heart. They look for an assist from the muscles in your body to support vein walls and to add to the blood pumping action of your heart. That requires motion, typically the regular movements that make up your day. The contraction and relaxation of leg muscles that make taking steps possible also assists the upward movement of blood through your veins.
The vein walls and valves experience substantial pressure from the weight of the blood that passes through. The backward force can press on walls and valves enough that blood can pool or move with gravity when some valves can’t close completely. This is the beginning of venous insufficiency.
Leg swelling is a potential complication of venous insufficiency, but it’s not the only symptom. Your legs can also feel achy and tired, a result of the sluggish blood flow. The skin on your legs can change in appearance, taking on a dry or leathery look. Spider veins and varicose veins can appear, and you may experience itchiness in your feet and legs. Once venous insufficiency reaches an advanced state, skin can take on a red-brown color and you can develop stasis ulcers on your legs.
Causes of venous insufficiency
In many cases, it might be your work or hobbies that contribute to venous insufficiency, if these force you into long periods of sitting or standing without motion. Your veins lose the pumping action generated by walking and without this, valve failure begins.
Similarly, being overweight adds to the load on your veins, and if the remainder of your life is also sedentary, the effects of sitting and standing become magnified. Chronic venous insufficiency could cause your leg swelling to be a constant condition, and it may be the result of blood clots in your legs, a condition called deep vein thrombosis.
Contact Cardiac and Vascular Interventions of New Jersey when you notice swelling in your legs. You can call the office directly or make an appointment using the online tool located on this page. Fast action may keep venous insufficiency from progressing and interfering with your life, so book your consultation now.