Your arteries carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Your veins carry blood back to the heart, and valves in the veins stop the blood from flowing backward. When your veins have trouble sending blood from your limbs back to the heart, it's known as venous insufficiency. In this condition, blood doesn't flow back properly to the heart, causing blood to pool in the veins in your legs.
Causes of venous insufficiency
Venous insufficiency is most often caused by either blood clots or varicose veins. In healthy veins, there is a continuous flow of blood from the limbs back toward the heart. Valves within the veins of the legs help prevent the backflow of blood. The most common causes of venous insufficiency are previous cases of blood clots and varicose veins. When forward flow through the veins is obstructed - such as in the case of a blood clot - blood builds up below the clot, which can lead to venous insufficiency. In varicose veins, the valves are often missing or impaired, and blood leaks back through the damaged valves.
Venous thromboembolism (VTE) refers to a blood clot that starts in a vein. It is the third leading vascular diagnosis after heart attack and stroke, affecting between 300,000 to 600,000 Americans each year. There are two types:
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
Deep vein thrombosis is a clot in a deep vein, usually in the leg. DVT sometimes affects the arm or other veins.
Pulmonary embolism (PE)
A pulmonary embolism occurs when a DVT clot breaks free from a vein wall, travels to the lungs and then blocks some or all of the blood supply. Blood clots originating in the thigh are more likely to break off and travel to the lungs than blood clots in the lower leg or other parts of the body.
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