Vein Function & Anatomy
Great Saphenous Vein
The most commonly treated vein for symptoms of veinous disease, the Great saphenous vein is a long, superficial vein that runs from the inside of the foot and ends near the groin where it connects with the deep vein system.
Small Saphenous Vein
The second most common vein to be treated for symptoms of vein disease, the small saphenous vein is a superficial vein that runs from the outside of the foot up the back of the calf. It ends at the knee where it connects with the deep vein system.
- The foot and calf muscles squeeze the blood out of the deep veins.
- One way valves allow only upward blood flow toward the heart and inward blood flow from the superficial to the deep veins.
- During muscle relaxation, blood is drawn inward through perforating veins.
Venous Valve Function
When the calf muscle contracts, it squeezes vein valves open so blood can flow upwards. The valves then close when the muscle relaxes to prevent blood from flowing back toward the feet. The backward flow of blood in the veins is called reflux. Dilation of the vein wall prevents the vein valves from sealing completely.
Blood clots can obstruct venous blood from flowing normally.
An obstruction known as superficial thrombophlebitis can occur in the superficial venous system. This condition is rarely serious and the clot can dissolve on its own. Symptoms include:
- Warmth and tenderness of a particular area
- Redness or swelling in a particular area
These symptoms tend to occur in the direct vicinity of the actual clot. You may notice a raised, cord-like vein under the skin.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a condition where a blood clot forms in the deep veins. DVT is a medical emergency and should be treated immediately. Symptoms include:
- Swelling of the whole leg
- Changes in skin color, including redness, bluish, or paleness
- Pain in your leg that may start out as a cramping feeling
- Warmth of the skin
DVT risk factors:
- Being inactive for long periods of time or prolonged bed rest
- Major surgery (especially knee replacements)
- Hereditary clotting disorders or a family history of blood clots
- Advanced age
- Certain medications, like birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy
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