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What Are Vein Valves?

GSV valve 2

The valves inside the leg veins can be seen on ultrasound. The arrow points to a valve in the great saphenous vein within the leg.

healthy_and_diseased_valves

Leg veins have one-way valves that prevent blood from flowing backward. Diseased valves are ‘leaky’ and allow blood flow both forward and backward, eventually causing bulging of the veins, i.e., varicose veins.

In the circulatory system, the veins carry de-oxygenated blood back to the heart. The leg veins carry blood toward the heart, against gravity. Therefore, the leg veins have one-way valves the prevent back flow of blood. When the valves do not function properly, they allow blood to flow backward, causing pooling of blood. This  is referred to as venous reflux or venous insufficiency. Eventually, the backflow of the blood will cause varicose veins to develop and symptoms related to the increased pressure in the leg veins such as leg heaviness, aching, swelling, restless legs, night cramps, throbbing and pain. 

What are Vein Valves?

healthy_and_diseased_valves

In healthy veins, the valves close after the blood flows towards the heart, preventing back flow.
When veins become dilated, the valves cannot close properly, allowing blood to flow back towards the ankle.

Vein valves play a critical role in helping blood flow through the veins back to the heart. Like swinging doors, valves open to allow blood to flow toward the heart and flap closed again to prevent the flow of blood back down the legs. If the veins become dilated, the flap-like valves cannot completely close, making them incapable of preventing the back flow of blood. This ‘back flow’ of blood through dysfunctional valves is called venous reflux or venous insufficiency.