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What is venous reflux?

This question was asked in Irvine, California and has 8 answer(s) as of 02/18/2013.
What is venous reflux?


Doctors Answers (8)

Venous reflux is backward flow in the veins. The job of veins is to circulate blood back to heart. Vein have valve that a supposed to insure that the blood only circulates back toward the heart. When those valves fail the blood flows backward toward the feet and that is called reflux.

Blood normally flows through the veins back towards the heart but when the valves in the veins fail, blood can flow away from the heart (downward due to gravity) and is called reflux. This results in increased venous pressure typically in the legs, varicose veins and other skin and vein problems.

The normal flow of blood in the veins of the legs is toward the heart. Many one-way valves are located in the veins which normally prevent blood from running downward toward the feet when we are sitting or standing. If the one-way valves are not functioning properly, the venous blood will run from the chest and abdomen in the veins of the legs toward the ankles.The term "reflux" is used to describe the downward movement of venous blood away from the heart when the blood should be flowing toward the heart or at least prevented from downward flow by the venous valves. When we use the term reflux, we are saying that there is an abnormal reversal of flow in the veins due to valve failure. This is the underlying problem in venous insufficiency which manifests with varicose veins, leg swelling, and tenderness or pain.

Broken down, 'venous' refers to veins. 'Reflux' is a generic medical word referring to a reversal or backwards flow of 'something'. Put together, venous reflux means that blood flow in a vein is moving backward. In a normal situation, arteries bring blood away from the heart and veins bring blood back to the heart; both types of blood vessels acting as 'one-way' streets. In the case of veins, valves or 'doors' are placed to keep the blood from moving backwards. In varicose vein disease, these 'doors' are often broken and move back and forth like an old western saloon door. With nothing to prevent this backward movement, the veins fill with too much blood and become overly stretched and then bulge.

The veins usually have very low pressure and in order to assure that blood is flowing in the right direction (toward the heart) the veins have small valves that prevent the blood from flowing in the wrong direction( ie down the legs). If the valves or even a single valve does not work then you have reflux. The blood flows in the wrong direction - down the leg leading to venous hypertension and distension of the veins in that segment of the circulation (varicose veins).

The legs have a network of veins. These veins have hundreds of one way valves that help the return of blood back to the heart. Venous reflux disease develops when one or more of these valves fail, causing blood to pool in the legs. The veins dilate causing varicose veins and spider veins to develop. Achy, tired, heavy, painful, and fatigued legs can develop as a result of venous reflux. Leg swelling can occur. Skin itching and burning can occur. The skin can become dry, red, discolored, or an ulcer can form. Restless legs and cramping can develop. Venous reflux disease is also referred to as chronic venous insufficiency.

Reflux in back flow of blood through the veins. The veins work to carry blood back towards the heart. If the valves in the veins are not working the blood refluxes backwards.

Venous reflux is simply doctor speak for describing wrong way blood flow in veins. Healthy veins have valves that close tight to keep blood moving one direction back to the heart against gravity. Very commonly these valves become damaged as we age and do not close correctly. When this happens the blood is able to fall back down the vein opposite the normal flow. This backwards blood flow is diagnosed with ultrasound and is called reflux. Reflux causes systems like aching, soreness, cramping, swelling and varicose veins.

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