In inflammation and wound healing, dynamic changes in cell adhesion and migration are fundamental properties of the cells involved. Disturbed interaction of leukocytes with microvascular endothelial cells has been proposed to be a central pathogenic factor in chronic venous insufficiency. This disease may therefore serve to elucidate dysregulated modulation of adhesion molecule expression in conditions of chronic inflammation and impaired wound healing. In this study, we determined how the expression of ICAM-1/VCAM-1 on endothelial cells and their ligands LFA-1/VLA-4 on leukocytes is modulated in skin of progressing stages of chronic venous insufficiency. Immunohistochemical staining of skin biopsies revealed an increase in the expression of ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 on endothelial cells in an early stage of venous disease such as stasis dermatitis. Such protein expression correlated with an increase of corresponding mRNA in skin biopsies. Expression of these CAMs on endothelial cells was accompanied by the occurrence of a marked perivascular infiltration of leukocytes, which expressed increased levels of LFA-1 and VLA-4. In progressing stages of chronic venous insufficiency, characterized by hyperpigmentation and lipodermatosclerosis, which precede skin ulceration, all these CAMs remained upregulated on endothelial cells and infiltrating leukocytes. Our findings indicate that following an initial peak expression during stasis dermatitis, vascular ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 expression is not downmodulated to baseline levels, but remains upregulated. This possibly promotes tissue damage by a perpetuated, upregulated influx of activated leukocytes, finally leading to skin ulceration.