The veins in your legs work against gravity to pump your blood back to the heart and maintain healthy circulation. When the walls or valves of your leg veins don’t function properly, you can develop conditions like chronic venous insufficiency (CVI).
What Is Chronic Venous Insufficiency?
CVI is a chronic venous disorder that prevents your blood from flowing to your heart, causing the blood to collect in the affected vein. It occurs due to weak valves or damaged venous walls due to aging or underlying health conditions. CVI can affect your superficial and deep veins.
If you have CVI, your blood will pool in the damaged veins in your lower legs. The high pressure building up in your veins may force fluid and proteins to leak out of blood vessels into nearby tissue. This can result in pain, discomfort, and swelling. It can even cause open sores or ulcers.
What Causes CVI?
The main cause of CVI is weak or damaged venous valves that can’t pump your blood upward. This can occur because of the following:
- Increased venous blood pressure in the leg veins due to sitting or standing for long durations
- Lack of exercise
- Age over 50 years
- Family history of CVI
- Deep vein thrombosis or a blood clot in a deep vein in your leg
- Phlebitis or swelling and inflammation of a superficial leg vein
Signs and Symptoms of CVI
CVI is a progressive condition and can worsen if it is not treated early. Consult a vein specialist if you experience the following symptoms:
- Swelling or heaviness in your legs and ankles after standing or sitting for long durations
- Pain and discomfort in the legs
- Tightness in your calves
- Bulging veins
- Leathery skin on the legs
- Itchy skin on the legs or feet
- Reddish-brown colored skin near the ankles
- Leg sores or venous ulcers
- Infection due to open wounds
Complications of CVI
If CVI goes untreated it can lead to severe complications such as:
- Constant pain and discomfort
- Increased clusters of varicose veins due to high pressure on leg veins
- Although very rare, peep vein thrombosis, or blood clotting in your deep vein, can occur
- Pulmonary embolism, another rare condition, is a blockage or blood clot in a pulmonary artery in your lung
- Venous ulcers and skin infection on your legs
- Secondary lymphedema or damaged lymphatic system
- Hemorrhage or bleeding
- Superficial thrombophlebitis or blood clotting in more than one superficial vein
Diagnosis of CVI
If you experience the symptoms of CVI, visit a vein expert to confirm your condition. The doctor will check your symptoms and ask about you and your family’s medical history. They will perform a vascular ultrasound to check your blood vessels and determine the direction of blood flow in your legs.
Treatment for CVI
The following treatments are available for CVI:
1. Gradient compression stockings
If you have mild symptoms of CVI, your doctor will ask you to wear gradient compression stockings. These are elastic stockings that squeeze your leg veins and prevent blood from collecting in one place. They also help heal skin sores.
If you have severe CVI from chronic obstruction of your deep pelvic veins, you may have to get an injection or sclerotherapy. This is a minimally invasive procedure. Your doctor injects a chemical into the problematic veins. The chemical irritates your vein from the inside, causing it to collapse. Your blood is rerouted into other veins in the area, which restores healthy blood circulation. Over time, your body absorbs the treated vein.
3. Endovenous ablation
Endovenous ablation is a minimally invasive process that uses radiofrequency energy or laser heat energy to close the affected vein. A thin tube or catheter is inserted into the affected vein. A tiny radiofrequency or laser device at the end of the catheter focuses heat energy inside the walls of your vein and seals it. Once the vein is closed, your blood is rerouted to healthy veins. The treated vein is eventually reabsorbed by your body.
4. Angioplasty and stenting
If you have a serious case of CVI, your vein specialist may suggest angioplasty or stenting. In angioplasty, a balloon is inserted in the affected vein to open up a narrow or blocked part. This helps the blood flow easily. For stenting, your doctor will insert a stent or a metal tube to open up your vein and prevent blockage. These procedures are performed by puncturing your vein with a small needle.
5. Other Options
You can manage your CVI symptoms at home through the following lifestyle changes:
- Avoid sitting or standing for too long
- Change your position, move about, and exercise regularly
- Elevate your legs while sitting or lying down
- Lose weight if you are overweight
- Maintain a healthy diet
If you develop ulcers or skin infections, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat them.
CVI and Varicose Veins
The causes of varicose veins and CVI tend to overlap. Moreover, varicose veins can occur due to CVI in superficial veins.
When a faulty valve causes blood to pool in your leg vein, it bulges and twists over time. This leads to the formation of enlarged or varicose veins, which appear blue or purple in color.
If you have CVI, you may even experience a combination of varicose vein symptoms, including:
- Visible, enlarged veins in your legs
- Pain, swelling, discomfort, and heaviness in your legs or ankle
- Bluish-purple discoloration near the varicose veins
- Bleeding or ulcers
Seek Treatment for CVI Today
If you’re experiencing severe CVI or varicose veins symptoms, you require immediate medical attention. My Vein Treatment’s highly efficient vein specialist locator tool can help you find a trusted vein specialist near you. The vein specialist will not only diagnose your condition but treat the symptoms of CVI and eliminate your painful varicose veins.