Capitol Vein Blog

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Why Do Varicose Veins Cause Leg Swelling?

A patient in our Bethesda office recently asked why varicose veins caused her legs to swell. The answer? Venous blood in legs normally moves from bottom to top, or from the foot to the thigh and then up towards the heart. Of course, the force of gravity is pushing downward, again the vein flow, but leg veins have one-way valves that enable them to push the blood up the leg against gravity.

When varicose veins appear, it's often because these one-way vein valves are not functioning normally. The valves are not able to resist the constant push of gravity downward, and backflow occurs. As the backflow persists, venous blood settles in the lower leg.

Leg swelling, one of the common symptoms of varicose veins, can occur as the result of this elevated pressure in the veins, and the swelling tends to be most prominent after you've been standing for a long period of time. When you are sleeping, or resting with your leg elevated, gravity is no longer a force to be resisted, and swelling is reduced. However, once you stand again, swelling recurs.

Fortunately, veins that develop backflow are very easily treated with Venefit (formerly VNUS Closure). This office-based procedure is performed under local anesthesia with immediate recovery and return to normal activity. Once the problem vein is addressed, vein flow returns to normal and swelling can be eliminated quite successfully.

If you have varicose veins or symptoms of leg pain, heaviness or restless legs, consider evaluation at one of our regional vein centers in Maryland, Virginia or West Virginia. Free evaluations are available with either Dr. Rosenberg or Dr. McNeill.

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