What Is Venous Reflux Disease?

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Venous reflux disease is a condition that causes blood flow problems in the legs. It affects almost 25 million Americans and is most common in women and older adults.

Woman holding leg
Woman holding leg (Image: Barry Austin/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

The Facts

The heart pumps blood to the rest of the body and the muscles pump it back. Tiny valves in the veins act as one-way gates that keep the blood flow from reversing on its return to the heart.

Woman checking heart rate on monitor
Woman checking heart rate on monitor (Image: AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images)

Cause

Venous reflux disease occurs when the valves in the veins stop functioning or become damaged. Blood pools in the legs and creates large, swollen veins--called varicose veins--on the skin’s surface. Reflux most often involves the leg's saphenous vein, the large vein that runs from the foot to the groin.

Woman standing in running shoes
Woman standing in running shoes (Image: Jacob Wackerhausen/iStock/Getty Images)

Effects

Varicose veins can appear anywhere on the leg and may cause swelling, itching and a heavy sensation.

Woman soaking in tub
Woman soaking in tub (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Potential

Other symptoms of venous reflux disease could include skin ulcers, burning skin, pain and weakness in the legs.

Woman resting legs
Woman resting legs (Image: nyul/iStock/Getty Images)

Treatment

Wearing special stockings, called compression stockings, is the easiest form of treatment. These stockings gently squeeze the legs and help the muscles pump blood. Surgery can also treat venous reflux disease if compression stockings are ineffective.

Woman talking with doctor after surgery
Woman talking with doctor after surgery (Image: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images)

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