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Understanding Venous Reflux

Sep 02, 2023
Understanding Venous Reflux
When one-way valves in your legs get damaged, blood can pool in the veins causing venous reflux. If your legs and ankles are swollen or uncomfortable, or you notice skin discoloration near the veins, you could have venous reflux and not know it.

Venous reflux, also known as chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), occurs when the valves in the leg veins malfunction. These one-way valves prevent blood from flowing backward as it's pumped back to the heart. But when the valves weaken or get damaged, blood can pool in the veins, leading to venous reflux.

David D. Shin, MD, RVT, RPVI, FACS, and the dedicated team of medical professionals at Houston Vein Specialists in Houston, Texas, treat venous reflux with a minimally invasive procedure called vein ablation.

Venous reflux symptoms


You might not initially recognize the symptoms of venous reflux, as they can be subtle or mistaken for other conditions. The most common symptoms include:

1. Swelling in the legs and ankles

Swelling of legs and ankles can range from mild to severe and may worsen throughout the day, especially after prolonged standing.

2. Varicose veins

Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted, and often blue or purple veins visible just under the skin's surface.

3. Aching or cramping in the legs

Leg discomfort or cramping might be more pronounced after standing for extended periods.

4. Itching or tingling

Legs that itch may indicate venous reflux, particularly if the tingling or itching sensation is around one or more veins.

5. Skin discoloration

Over time, the skin around the affected veins can become discolored, usually taking on a brownish hue. It may look like a bruise that doesn’t go away.


6. Skin ulcersIn severe cases of venous reflux, prolonged blood pooling can lead to ulcers. Skin ulcers are typically found on the lower legs and can be challenging to heal without proper treatment.

Causes and risk factors of venous reflux

While anyone can develop venous reflux, certain factors elevate your risk, including:

  • Age - The risk increases for those over 50.
  • Gender - Women are generally more susceptible, often due to hormonal changes. 
  • Family history-  A family history of varicose veins or CVI increases your risk.
  • Obesity - Extra weight places added pressure on the veins, increasing the risk of valve damage.

You’re also at an increased risk of venous reflux if you have a job or routines involving long standing or sitting periods as it can hinder proper blood flow through the veins.

Venous reflux treatment options

There are multiple effective treatment options for venous reflux, including:

Lifestyle changes

Simple measures like leg elevation, regular exercise, and wearing compression stockings can significantly relieve symptoms.


Sclerotherapy procedures involve injecting a solution directly into the vein, causing it to scar and close. Sclerotherapy is often used in combination with a vein ablation.

Endovenous laser treatment (EVLT)

EVLT is a minimally invasive procedure that uses laser energy to seal off the problematic vein.

Radiofrequency vein ablation

Similar to EVLT, radiofrequency vein ablation employs radiofrequency waves instead of laser energy to produce the necessary heat.

Surgical procedures

Surgical interventions like vein stripping or ligation might be recommended for more severe cases.

If you're experiencing symptoms suggestive of venous reflux, or simply want to learn more about your vein health, don't hesitate to reach out. With early diagnosis and intervention, managing and mitigating venous reflux is entirely within reach. Contact us today or schedule an appointment online for more information on sclerotherapy and other vein treatments.