The function of the veins in your body are to carry blood back to your heart. The veins in the legs have small valves that help push the blood against gravity. Prolonged sitting and standing can block this flow, resulting in the blood beginning to pool in the veins. This puts pressure on the veins, causing the valves to weaken and stop working properly. Standing requires more energy than sitting and can cause veins to overwork and cause weakness. The jobs we perform in our daily life may demand many hours of standing and while a couple of hours of standing may not cause any problems, beyond that could.
When these veins become insufficient, they have trouble sending blood from your limbs to the heart and this condition is referred to as “Venous insufficiency”. If the condition persists, it can affect the way your skin exchanges oxygen, nutrients, and waste products with your blood. Over time, it can turn to ‘chronic venous insufficiency’ which can lead to several other complications. Venous Ulcer is one such complication.
A Venous leg ulcer is the most common type of leg ulcer which develops when there is an increased pressure in the veins of your lower leg. It can develop even after a small injury, where high pressure in the veins of the legs has damaged the skin. The faulty veins will cause fluid to seep from your vein and collect under the skin. As a result of fluid collection, the skin thickens with potential swelling and sometimes breaks down to form an ulcer.
When ulcer develops, you will notice swelling in your leg, with red itchy skin around the wound. Tightness in your calves, feeling of heaviness and aching in your legs are also associated symptoms. The distinguishing feature of such leg ulcers is the increased risk of infection through the open sores.
How are varicose veins related to Venous leg ulcers?
Varicose veins develop when the small valves inside the veins stop working properly. If the valves weaken or are damaged, the blood can flow backwards and collect in the vein, eventually causing it to be swollen and enlarged. Usually blue or dark purple veins, they usually occur on the legs. These veins are located very close to the surface of the skin but are not “only cosmetic” and if left untreated can deteriorate to venous leg ulceration.
Researchers in recent years have shown that the patients with varicose veins have a 4.3% chance of deteriorating every year. The deterioration starts with varicose veins, which leads to swollen ankles, ankle discoloration and finally venous leg ulcers. This means in a year, 1 in 20 people with varicose veins will deteriorate to the next level. Hence without performing a venous duplex ultrasound scan to check the underlying vein reflux, no doctor can ever consider the condition to be “cosmetic.”
Most varicose veins need not cause long term problems, but it if causes major discomfort and pain treatment should be sought. Symptoms of Varicose veins can be improved by regular exercise, avoiding excessive standing, or sitting, elevating legs while sitting and by taking regular breaks throughout the day. If treatment is suggested, various treatment modalities are available which include endothermal ablation, sclerotherapy, or surgery.