Chronic Venous Insufficiency
A Happier You
What is chronic venous insufficiency (CVI)?
Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when there is disruption of the normal flow of blood within the veins over a long period of time. Veins carry deoxygenated blood, with all the by-products of metabolism (the ‘used blood’), back into the body, where the blood is then cleaned in organs such as the liver and kidney. Then, they carry the blood back to the lungs to be reoxygenated. Ultimately, veins carry blood back to the heart. When the veins are not working properly, blood is not carried back into the body as quickly as it should be, and may pool in the lower parts of the body. This happens when the vein walls stretch too much (i.e. with varicose veins) or when the valves within the veins are not working properly (i.e. varicose veins, damaged valves from blood clots, congenital issues). Overtime, when the “used” blood is pooling within the veins, the tissues around the veins start to get damaged. This happens because of inflammation in and around the vein due to the stretching of the vein and the contents of the blood itself, as well as due to the increased pressure within the vein since more blood is collecting within that vein. Typically, the damage due to the chronic inflammation of venous insufficiency is seen in the lower legs.
What are the symptoms of CVI?
The symptoms of CVI in the legs are very similar to the symptoms of varicose vein disease:
- aching, pain
- itching, burning
If chronic venous insufficiency is not treated early, the pressure and swelling increase until (often irreversible) damage to the skin and soft tissues occur. This is seen as:
- progressive, worsening swelling or edema
- discoloration of the skin of the lower leg (red or brown appearing)
- changes in the texture of the skin/soft tissue – becoming tight or leathery
- rashes or dermatitis may occur
- venous stasis ulcers or sores may occur
Prevention of CVI:
Prevention of chronic venous insufficiency revolves around preventing or managing the causes. If you have varicose veins, or you have a family history of varicose veins, seeing a vein specialist to determine how much of a risk you have for developing CVI is important. Treatment of varicose veins BEFORE the skin and soft tissue changes of CVI occur is the best way to prevent irreversible damage that is likely to affect your quality of life and activity level in the future. Contact our vein clinic for CVI prevention if:
- You have a history of a blood clot, or DVT, taking steps to avoid post thrombotic syndrome or developing a second DVT in the same leg is important. Our vein doctors at Center for Advanced Vein Care can help provide further insight into prevention.
- You have a family member with symptoms or signs (changes to the skin or soft tissue of the legs as described above) of CVI, you may want to be evaluated to see if you are at risk of developing CVI. Many aspects of vein disorders are hereditary. You do not need to see varicose veins on your legs to have venous insufficiency that will eventually worsen to the point that you DO see them, or develop CVI. Coming into our vein clinic to catch this early may help you prevent more serious vein problems down the road.
What can I do today to decrease my risk?
Exercise, eat a healthy diet, lose weight (if you are overweight), avoid long periods of sitting or standing, and wearing properly fitted compression stockings will all help decrease your risk of CVI and/or slow down the progression of CVI if it has already started. If you are concerned about CVI, come into our vein clinic to consult with a vein specialist today.