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Larger leg veins have a system of one-way valves that basically prevent blood from flowing backwards. If these valves aren’t working properly, blood tends to pool in the legs, especially while standing. There’s a mild version of this most of us have felt when we want to "put our feet up" at the end of the day; what we are doing is helping pooled blood to drain. But when the valve problem is more severe, it is called “venous insufficiency” and this is the most common cause of varicose veins.
Skin Discoloration and Venous Ulcers
Discoloration and ulcers develop relatively late in the disease process of venous insufficiency (damaged vein valves). Venous ulcers are also commonly referred to as stasis ulcers and can be extremely painful. They most often occur toward the middle of the lower leg or ankle and usually first appear as a discolored spot on the skin. Exactly how the ulcers form is still not fully understood but as vein valves break one by one, the pressure on the next valve increases. Eventually the pressure rises to higher than normal levels and is called venous hypertension. Ulcers may arise when these high-pressure veins are stretched, and some components of blood leak through to surrounding tissues; this is called edema and can cause swelling, discoloration, tissue damage, and breakdown. Also, any wound caused by a small cut, bug bite, burn or surgical incision may not heal properly due to venous hypertension and can develop into an ulcer.
There are several factors which can increase your chance of developing varicose veins. These include:
Compression stockings and lifestyle changes are considered to be conservative management and can be effective in controlling symptoms. In more severe cases, you should talk with your doctor and seek medical treatment directed towards the root cause, namely the abnormal leg veins. Treatment for vein disease is now much different than even 10 years ago and advanced varicose vein treatments are available at the SMIL Medical Imaging Vein Clinic.