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Why Varicose Veins Can Cause Your Legs to Swell

Why Varicose Veins Can Cause Your Legs to Swell

A common vascular condition, varicose veins affect millions of people in the United States. Most people are familiar with their cosmetic effects. However, you may be surprised to learn that these damaged leg veins can also lead to physical complaints, including leg pain, skin ulcerations, and leg swelling.

Vascular surgeon Gary Nackman, MD, FACS, at NJ Vein Care and Aesthetics Center in Oradell and Clifton, New Jersey, specializes in treatments that eliminate physical and cosmetic concerns related to varicose veins.

Read what Dr. Nackman and his team say about varicose veins and why they cause leg swelling.

Understanding vein function

Veins, responsible for carrying deoxygenated blood back to the heart, are an essential part of the circulatory system. The legs contain different sizes and types of veins. 

Deep veins travel within muscles and carry the majority of blood. Superficial veins run between the skin’s surface and muscles and sometimes become visible beneath the skin. Perforator veins connect these two systems, carrying blood from the superficial to deep veins.

Blood from the legs must travel against gravity to reach the heart. A series of one-way valves within the veins prevent the blood from pooling or flowing backward in the vein. 

As leg muscles contract and relax during activities such as walking or running, they squeeze the veins and help push blood upwards.

Varicose veins and valve dysfunction

Varicose veins occur when the one-way valves in veins become weakened or damaged. This leads to a condition known as venous insufficiency, where blood is no longer efficiently pumped back to the heart and begins to pool in the veins. This pooling is particularly prevalent in the lower legs due to the force of gravity.

Over time, the increased pressure within these veins causes them to stretch, twist, and bulge - the characteristic appearance of varicose veins. However, the consequences of venous insufficiency extend beyond cosmetic concerns.

Varicose veins and leg swelling

As the pressure in varicose veins increases due to blood pooling, fluid gets pushed out into the surrounding tissues. This causes edema or swelling, a condition commonly associated with varicose veins. Swelling related to varicose veins is most often seen in the ankles and lower legs.

As blood pools in the veins and circulation slows further, often worsened with prolonged standing or sitting, your legs may also feel heavy and achy. Other physical changes related to varicose veins include skin changes such as reddish or brown discoloration and open sores (venous ulcers).

Fortunately, many effective treatments offer relief from the cosmetic concerns and physical symptoms of varicose veins. Dr. Nackman develops a treatment strategy that best suits your needs.

For more information about varicose vein treatments or our other service offerings, schedule a visit today at NJ Vein Care and Aesthetics Center by calling or requesting an appointment online. 

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