Venous Reflux Disease: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What is Venous Reflux Disease?

Venous Reflux Disease which is also known as Chronic Venous Insufficiency is a medical condition which at times can be serious in which the veins, especially in the lower extremities, are not able to return adequate amount of deoxygenated blood back to the heart. As stated, Venous Reflux Disease mostly occurs in the lower extremities and can be extremely painful. If Venous Reflux Disease is not treated appropriately then the complications that arise from it can be very serious.[1,2,3]

Anatomically speaking, the function of the arteries is to carry oxygenated blood to all the parts of the body from the heart. The veins on the other hand function by sending the deoxygenated blood back to the heart. Veins have a one-way valve that opens to allow the blood to pass through and then closes so that the deoxygenated blood does not flow backwards and goes to the heart. Venous Reflux occurs when these valves in the veins do not close properly or are damaged. This causes some of the deoxygenated blood to reflux back into the vein. This results in impaired circulation.[1,2,3]

It also causes interferes with the blood flow back to the heart. In cases of Venous Reflux Disease, it is the saphenous veins, the valves of which get blocked or damaged. These veins are present in the legs and are responsible for carrying deoxygenated blood from the feet, shins, and thighs. As a result of a damaged saphenous vein valve, there is accumulation of blood around the foot and toes.[1,2,3]

If not treated on time, due to the pressure of the accumulated blood these veins become dilated and weak causing a variety of problems. It is estimated that around 40% of people in the United States are affected with Venous Reflux Disease. This is progressive condition and worsens with time if not treated adequately.[1,2,3]

What Causes Venous Reflux Disease?

There are a host of medical conditions that can cause Venous Reflux Disease. This includes DVT, weakness of the walls of the veins, congenital defect in which the valves of the vein is absent, and tumors. A blockage of the veins in the pelvic region or the groin can also cause Venous Reflux Disease. An injury to the veins during a surgical procedure is also one of the common causes of Venous Reflux Disease.[3]

There are also certain risk factors which increase the likelihood of a person developing Venous Reflux Disease. These include being obese, females who have had multiple pregnancies, people with a history of chronic constipation, heavy lifters, people who work as greeters and stand for long periods of time, hypertensives, people with sedentary lifestyle. It has also been observed that females are at most risk for Venous Reflux Disease than others.[3]

What are the Symptoms of Venous Reflux Disease?

Mild cases of Venous Reflux Disease are completely asymptomatic. However, if Venous Reflux Disease is severe then symptoms will include those seen when there is accumulation of blood in the lower extremities. There will also be severe pain experienced in the lower extremities including the legs, feet, and ankles. Some of the symptoms include the legs feeling full and heavy. The pain experienced is kind of throbbing and burning.[3]

The muscles frequently cramp in a person with Venous Reflux Disease. There is also edema of the lower extremities that is also quite common in Venous Reflux Disease.

People with this condition also have varicose veins, skin discoloration, and itching sensation in the lower extremities. They also experience restlessness and exhaustion with little effort. Sometimes the skin around the affected area becomes thick, hard, scaly, and very dry due to Venous Reflux Disease.[3]

How is Venous Reflux Disease Treated?

Compression stocking is the best and the most preferred way to treat Venous Reflux Disease. It works by compressing the blood vessels in the lower extremities thereby increasing pressure in the veins and promoting blood flow. The compression stockings are made in such a way that maximum pressure is at the feet and ankles and the pressure gradually releases as it move upwards. The medical fraternity recommends compression stockings with not more than 20-30 mmHg compression.[3]

It is important to choose a compression stocking that fits well and is not overly tight. It is best for a physician or a pharmacist to select the stocking that fits the needs and requirements of the person taking into account the size, shape, and severity of the condition. There are also certain lifestyle changes that are helpful in managing the symptoms of Venous Reflux Disease. These include[3]

  • Eating a healthy well balanced diet[3]
  • Maintaining an ideal weight[3]
  • Avoid sitting or standing without breaks[3]
  • Exercising and walking at 30 minutes every day for overall health[3]

Elevating the feet above the thigh when sitting and above the heart when lying down at least three times per day to promote blood circulation[3]

In severe cases of Venous Reflux Disease, surgery may have to be done to deal with the condition. Some of the surgical options for Venous Reflux Disease include[3]

Vein Stripping: This surgery involves removing the damaged vein and is done under general anesthesia.[3]

Ultrasound-Guided Sclerotherapy: This procedure involves inserting a small tube under ultrasound guidance and then injecting a foaming material called sclerosant that causes the damaged vein to swell up shutting off the blood supply to it completely. The area then shrinks with time due to lack of blood supply leaving behind just scar tissue[3]

Ablation: This procedure involves using laser beams to destroy the vessels that are causing Venous Reflux Disease[3]

In conclusion, Venous Reflux Disease is a condition in which there is damage to the valves of the veins, especially in the lower extremities that causes deoxygenated blood to flow back into the veins causing pooling of the blood in the lower extremities. It is quite a painful condition and if not treated adequately and in time can cause serious complications. The swelling caused by Venous Reflux Disease may make it tough for a person to even stand, sit, or walk making everyday life difficult.[1,2,3]

The best way to treat Venous Reflux Disease is by wearing compression stockings. They come in various sizes and shape and thus it is recommended that the patient takes the advice of the pharmacist or the physician to find the best stocking which can manage the symptoms of Venous Reflux Disease. In some cases, surgical procedures which have been detailed above are also required to treat severe cases of Venous Reflux Disease.[1,2,3]