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Understanding Leg Vein Problems

Leg veins carry blood from your feet and legs back to your heart. If a vein is damaged, it may cause problems in your legs.

If heredity, an injury, or a blood clot weakens a vein, the wall near the valve starts to sag. A valve keeps blood moving through the vein towards the heart. The valve may no longer close fully, allowing blood to move backward.

Once a vein is damaged, blood pressing against the sagging wall may cause the vein to look like a twisted rope. Eventually, the valve can’t close. Blood may start to pool or clot in the vein.

A valve that doesn’t close allows blood to move backwards and sit (pool) in the vein.

Blood that is not moving may form clots. Over time, the clot may grow big enough to block the vein.

A damaged vein

A “ropy” vein

Pooling blood

Clotting blood

The problems that may happen from damage to the veins include: 

  • Varicose veins. This a swollen, twisted vein located close to the skin.

  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT).  This is a blood clot in one of the deep veins, usually of the legs. The clot can separate from the vein and travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism or PE). In the lungs, the clot can cut off the flow of blood. These two conditions together are called venous thromboembolism (VTE).

  • Chronic venous insufficiency.  This is a long-term problem with the veins not working well.

Your healthcare provider can give you more information on these conditions and how to prevent and treat them.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have pain, swelling, or redness in one of your legs. These are the symptoms of a blood clot.

Call 911

Call 911 if you have:

  • Chest pain

  • Trouble breathing

  • Fast heartbeat

  • Sweating

  • Coughing (may cough up blood)

  • Fainting

These are the symptoms of a blood clot that has traveled to the lungs. This is a medical emergency and may cause death. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Anne Fetterman RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Deepak Sudheendra MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2019
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