Leg Veins Diseases

The issue of lower limbs venous diseases is very complex. Before we list these diseases, it is necessary to know some basic information about the anatomy of the venous system in the lower extremities as it is very important to understand the majority of pathologies.


The veins of the lower extremities are quite unique. At first glance, they may look like other veins in the body – they take the blood from peripheral tissues and transport it towards the heart. However, venous blood flow from the lower extremities is more difficult as it must flow against the gravity. Therefore, the veins of the lower extremities must be equipped with special mechanisms to facilitate the blood flow. Firstly, they are special flaps that allow one-direction blood flow and prevent it from returning. In addition, muscles of the lower extremities are in close anatomical relationship with the veins and their contractions help to compress the veins and pump the blood forward out of the extremities.


Anatomically, there are two venous systems in the lower extremities - superficial venous system and deep venous system. The surface veins run relatively closely beneath the skin and in the area of thighs they connect to the deep venous system. There are special connecting veins between the superficial and deep system throughout their course. We can imagine the system as a “ladder”.


The point is that the connecting veins are also equipped with one-way valves that under normal circumstances allow the blood flow only from the superficial system to the deep one.


All venous diseases are somehow related to disorders of this complex system and the pathological conditions are usually present combined.

Diseases of the veins of the lower limbs

Chronic venous insufficiency

This is a condition that occurs when there insufficient function of the superficial or deep venous system, impaired function of the venous valves, etc. Chronic venous insufficiency may occur on the basis of congenital valvular insufficiency, or on the basis of a larger deep vein thrombosis. Even long-term present venous varices may lead to venous insufficiency (and vice versa). More information can be found in the relevant text.

Varicose veins

Varicose veins are enlarged dilated superficial veins of the lower extremities. They may be related to disorders of veins connecting the superficial and deep venous system, when dysfunctional valves allow the blood to flow from the deep system to superficial (normally they only allow the flow from the surface to the deep system). Superficial system is affected by congestion due to excessive blood flow and its veins tend to dilate. A similar effect can also occur in deep vein thrombosis of the lower extremities. Varicose veins are usually only a cosmetic defect, but the blood flow through varicose veins is more difficult, the blood may accumulate in the varices and cause further complications. More can be found in the relevant text.


Thrombophlebitis is an inflammation of superficial veins, often accompanied with local occurrence of blood clot. However, unlike the deep vein thrombosis, superficial thrombophlebitis does not cause pulmonary embolism.

Deep vein thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis is a potentially serious condition. It occurs when there is a blood clot in the deep venous system, which is often accompanied by its inflammation. The affected leg is swollen, it turns violet and it hurts. Deep vein thrombosis may threaten the patient by deadly pulmonary embolism, when the thrombus breaks off and clogs lung arteries.

Leg ulcers

Leg ulcers may have both arterial and venous causes; however venous ulcers are more common. The point is that if the above mentioned diseases of the venous system last a long time, they can manifest by a local disruption of tissue viability. Even minor wounds may have worsened healing ability and turn into chronic festering and stinking ulcers.


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Contact: jiri.stefanek@seznam.cz
 Sources: basic text sources