What You Need to Know About Vein Valves
Are you one of the many who has heard the words “vein valves” but had no idea what that really meant? You are not alone, and this article is for you.
Today we are getting into all you need to know about vein valves: what they are, why veins even have valves, and what their purpose is.
To start things off, let’s address a popular question we often get asked: Do veins have valves?
The answer is yes, veins do have valves. But let’s take a step back.
What are vein valves?
Vein valves are a major part of your circulatory system. Arteries have the work of bringing oxygenated blood from your heart and sending it through the rest of your body. And veins are what bring blood (sans the oxygen) back up to your heart.
Why do veins have valves and what is their function?
These valves are what ensure blood flows toward your heart. Vein valves work hard, against gravity, to bring the blood that flowed down via arteries back up to your heart.
When your vein valves are open and healthy, they are able to do their job properly, as the blood is easily able to flow up. When vein valves are not fully open your muscles are at rest. As long as your valves are healthy, this closing of the vein valves is not a problem. In fact, it is what keeps blood from pooling in your legs.
How do I know if my vein valves are damaged?
If your vein valves are damaged, they will not be able to do their job of flowing blood back up to your heart. And this is called venous insufficiency. The symptoms of venous insufficiency include:
- Swelling in legs or ankles
- Tight feeling in calves
- Itchy, painful legs
- Pain when walking that alleviates when you rest
- Varicose veins
- Brown-colored skin, near the ankles
- Leg ulcers
- Restless leg syndrome (urge to move your legs)
Painful leg cramps or muscle spasms
These symptoms may start out small, but will likely get worse the longer your veins go without treatment.
Is venous insufficiency dangerous?
Venous insufficiency is not as life-threatening as other vein issues like blood clots. However, venous insufficiency can be incredibly painful and possibly even disabling. Thus, it is always best to schedule a consultation with a vein specialist at the first sign you may be suffering from something that looks like venous insufficiency (see symptoms above).
What causes venous insufficiency?
There are a number of different factors that could contribute to your development of this vein issue, but these are the primary causes of venous insufficiency according to John Hopkins Medicine:
- Pregnancy (and other hormone changes)
- Family history
- Damage (due to leg injury, surgery, etc.)
- High blood pressure in leg veins over time (due to sedentary lifestyle)
- Lack of exercise
- Blood clot (DVT)
- Swelling and inflammation of a vein close to the skin (phlebitis)
How is venous insufficiency and other vein valve problems treated?
At Vein Clinics of America, treating venous insufficiency is something we do everyday. You will want to meet with a vein specialist to get your specific diagnosis and treatment plan, but for more patients, vein valve problems are treated with Endovenous Laser Treatment (also called EVLT), Radiofrequency Ablation Treatment (RFA), or Sclerotherapy Treatment.
Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT)
EVLT is used to treat large vein disease and large varicose veins on your legs. These veins are usually below the surface and not able to be seen without ultrasound. It is performed by your doctor inserting a small catheter into the diseased vein and using laser lights to generate heat, which then causes the vein to collapse.
Radiofrequency Ablation Treatment (RFA)
Radiofrequency ablation is used to treat large vein disease and large varicose veins on your legs. These veins are usually below the surface and not able to be seen without ultrasound. It is performed by your doctor inserting a small catheter into the diseased vein. Through this catheter, heat is delivered to collapse the vein.
Sclerotherpy is used to treat small and medium leg vein issues, mostly commonly spider and varicose veins. It is performed by your doctor injecting the damaged vein with a liquid that closes the vein.