Venous insufficiency, also known as chronic venous stasis or chronic venous insufficiency, is a circulatory problem where blood flow from the veins of the legs back to the heart is hindered.
Veins rely on muscle contraction and valves to maintain blood flow in one-direction toward the heart. Venous insufficiency arises when the valves in the veins of your leg fail, allowing blood to pool in the legs.
Causes of Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI)
Venous insufficiency affects about 20% of adults. It can also be caused by deep vein thrombosis – a blood clot that forms in a deep vein in the legs – that causes blockage, or damaged valves due to high blood pressure in the inner leg veins.
Over time, CVI may result in the following symptoms in the legs:
- Varicose veins
- Swelling in the ankles
- Skin sores
- Aching or feeling of heaviness
- Changes in skin color
When the valves fail to facilitate blood flow in the legs against gravity, the blood may not only pool, but also flow in reverse – venous reflux.
Some of the risk factors of valve failure of venous reflux include:
- Family history of DVT (or blood clots) or varicose veins
- Vein wall weakness – causing valves to expand so valve closure is not effective
- Lack of enough physical activity
- Swelling of a superficial vein (phlebitis)
- Muscle weakness, trauma, or leg injury
- Prolonged standing or sitting – resulting in high blood pressure
Diagnosis and Treatment
When you visit the Center for Vein Wellness, Dr. Shah will work with you to diagnose the source of the problem and develop the most effective treatment plan for your case.
Dr. Shah will perform a health history check and physical examination of your leg veins to access their health. You can expect:
- Questions about your symptoms and risk factors – like family history, blood clot, leg injury, recent surgery
- A physical examination of your legs for abnormal veins, tender or swollen areas, and changes in skin color
- A duplex ultrasound – a noninvasive imaging test that uses sound waves to scan your vein structures and blood flow. It can help to locate the source of a vein problem
Depending on the results of the diagnostic tests, Dr. Shah will devise a personalized treatment plan that involves medical and surgical interventions, as well as recommendations on:
- Diet and lifestyle
- Ways to prevent prolonged sitting or standing
- Structured exercise to strengthen calf muscle action, like walking
- Elevating your feet above the thighs when sitting and above the heart when lying down 3-4 times to reduce swelling
Compression stockings are also recommended for managing venous insufficiency. These medical stockings are tighter at the ankles than the top of the legs, and help to relieve pain and minimize swelling. They can also help to treat venous skin ulcers.
Urgency of Treatment for Venous Insufficiency
Regardless of the cause, defective valves often cause increased blood pressure in the leg, resulting in venous hypertension – high blood pressure in the vein. This is what causes varicose veins and other symptoms to appear. The sooner you get the condition diagnosed and treated, the sooner you can enjoy your daily activities.