When the veins in the legs do not work properly, there are several different conditions that can result.
Most people are aware of varicose veins, thread veins and deep-vein thrombosis but many people do not know that malfunctioning leg veins can also cause leg ulcers, venous eczema, swollen ankles, discolouration around the lower legs, aching of the lower legs, phlebitis and some other less obvious conditions.
In this section, we outline the conditions that are caused by malfunctioning veins and summarize how each condition is caused and what investigations and treatment are optimal to cure the problem.
Duplex ultrasound scanning
The test that has revolutionised phlebology and our understanding of veins is duplex ultrasound scanning (sometimes called colour flow duplex, or triplex scanning). Duplex ultrasound scanning enables us to diagnose any of the venous conditions of the legs and pelvis. It is also essential to allow us to choose the optimal treatment for any individual patient as well as guiding the treatment itself. Without duplex scanning, modern phlebology would not exist in such an advanced state.
Conditions caused by venous incompetence (valves failing)
In the legs and pelvis, the most common cause of venous disorders and diseases is the failure of the valves in the veins. When the valves fail, the blood falls or 'refluxes' the wrong way down the vein, against the direction of the venous pump. The conditions caused by this venous reflux vary depending on which veins are involved and can include:
Clots (thrombosis) in the veins
When clots form in the veins, for whatever reason, it is called 'thrombosis'. When a thrombosis occurs in superficial veins, it is called phlebitis, or more accurately superficial thrombophlebitis. When the clots or thrombosis occur in the deep veins, it is called deep vein thrombosis (or 'DVT').