What is Chronic Venous Insufficiency?

vein health

If you’ve had problems with veins, such as varicose veins or deep vein thrombosis, then you’ve likely heard the term chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). This is a condition that describes when the valves in the leg veins (or the venous walls) do not work as they should, which results in it being difficult for blood to return to the heart from the legs. Blood essentially collects in these veins, which is called stasis.

CVI occurs when the valves in the leg veins become damaged, and instead of pushing the blood upwards towards the heart, blood can leak backward. Common reasons for this occurrence is age, sitting or standing for long periods of time, or limited movement. Muscles in the feet and calf contract with movement, which squeezes veins and pushes the blood upwards, so people with limited mobility can be at risk for CVI when this does not occur regularly. 

Untreated CVI can lead to burst capillaries, which cause inflammation and tissue damage. This can also lead to open sores or ulcers, which can be painful and become infected. 

How do I know if I have chronic venous insufficiency? 

CVI is a very serious condition, so if you have any symptoms, it’s crucial to speak with your doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment are important with CVI, so don’t wait. Symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency include,

  • Varicose veins that have recently appeared
  • Tiredness or achy feeling in the legs
  • Swelling in the lower legs and ankles
  • Itchy or flaking skin in the legs
  • Heaviness feeling in the legs

Those more at risk for CVI include people who are pregnant, have had deep vein thrombosis, are over 50, smoke, and are inactive. 

Is CVI treatable?

To determine a diagnosis, your doctor may perform a vascular ultrasound to look at the blood circulation in your legs. Your physician will also ask for a complete medical history, perform a medical exam, and ask lifestyle questions to get a complete picture of your health.

After your doctor has a complete assessment of your specific case, he or she might suggest medication or lifestyle changes. 

Lifestyle changes can include increased movement or exercise such as walking or working out or even stretching legs and feet occasionally throughout the day. Your doctor may also want you to wear compression stockings that help improve blood flow in the legs. 

Some patients may require surgery to treat CVI. Surgical procedures typically include sclerotherapy or endovenous thermal ablation.

How can I prevent CVI?

While chronic venous insufficiency is not always preventable, there are some suggestions on how to lower your risk. Start by eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. It’s important to maintain regular movement such as working out and walking. Try to avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time, and if you are a tobacco user, it’s vital to quit. 

If you think you are at risk or have any symptoms of CVI, talk to your doctor.

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