Essential information about the venous system

The venous system may be simplified into two systems: one that lies beneath the skin and covers the surface of the body, and a second that runs between the muscles and bones and carries the main volume of blood. Blood flows from the veins of the surface system into the larger veins located more deeply. At the junctions of small veins with larger vessels are the venous valves, which consist of folds of internal vessel wall reinforced with connective tissue. The importance of these valves is that they prevent the return of venous blood to the peripheral regions and control the direction of blood flow, allowing it to pass only in the direction of the heart. Should a venous valve become damaged, through, for example, excessive strain on the vein wall or a hereditary condition, it can no longer control the flow of blood. The consequences are a return of blood to the periphery and congestion in the vessels of the legs.

Damaged venous valves do not provide the necessary support to the muscle-vein pumps. Where this occurs a visible vein problem can rapidly develop, such as the dreaded so-called spider veins – the mildest form of vein disorder. While this is often still regarded as a purely cosmetic issue, it should in fact be taken seriously as the first warning sign of a developing vein disorder.

Anybody who persists in considering spider veins to be merely cosmetic risks a potentially chronic complaint with serious long-term consequences. Blood congestion in the veins interferes with the supply of nutrients to and removal of waste from the surrounding tissue and can even affect the health of the skin.

Furthermore, vein walls suffer long-term damage and become porous to tissue fluids, which can result in water collecting in the veins (oedema) and skin colouring. Common consequences include inflammation (phlebitis) and life-threatening blood clots (thrombosis), or even leg ulcers (Ulcus cruris).

The best way to prevent such situations developing is to learn more about the normal development of typical venous disorders, so that you can recognise early symptoms and take appropriate, timely action. Talk to a medical specialist and consult your pharmacy for further information. A painless check-up is available that will give you an accurate picture of the functional condition of your veins.

The first recognisable signs of a venous disorder requiring treatment do not appear overnight. Various early signs will prompt you to take action: spider veins, swollen legs or nightly calf cramps. At such signs, you should consult your GP or a specialist. Additionally, you can take active precautions for the health of your legs.