Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a disorder of the veins that causes blood to pool in the lower limbs. The condition is also referred to as post-thrombotic syndrome or chronic venous stasis. Although CVI typically affects veins in the legs, some people have experienced the condition in their arms.
Learn what you need to know about chronic venous insufficiency.
Veins and arteries are the main blood vessels in your body that transport blood to and from the heart. Arteries carry blood from the heart, while veins will bring the blood back. While blood in the arteries has high pressure, blood in the veins has low pressure. Veins have valves to prevent the blood from flowing backward.
Sometimes, the veins cannot transport blood from the lower limbs to the heart. This condition is referred to as venous insufficiency. In this case, the blood fails to flow back to the heart but instead accumulates in the veins in the legs. The condition is not usually life-threatening but can be painful and cause discomfort.
Causes and Risk Factors
The primary cause of CVI is elevated blood pressure in the leg veins over an extended duration. This can happen if you frequently stand or sit for long periods. You can also develop VCI if blood clots in a deep vein, especially in the thigh or calf. Vein inflammation or swelling in the legs can also cause chronic venous insufficiency.
An inactive lifestyle and tobacco products can also lead to CVI. Although anybody can develop the condition, overweight or pregnant people are at an increased risk. Previous blood clots, surgery, and leg injuries can also increase your risk of developing CVI. The disease is also genetic and can run in the family.
Signs and Symptoms
Learn the main symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency:
- Open sores near the ankles that are painful, particularly if infected
- Varicose veins
- Leathery-looking skin on the legs
- Heavy or full feeling in your legs
- Itching or flaking skin on the feet
- Swelling in the ankles and lower legs, often when you stand for a long time
- Reddish-brown or discolored skin
- Cramping in the legs at night
- Tingling or burning sensation in the legs
- Tired and aching legs
These symptoms sometimes lead to scar tissue appearing on your legs. The scar tissues may trap fluids and make your calves look large. Eventually, the skin will become hard to the touch and prone to frequent ulcers. Remember that most people don’t usually show all these signs but will only manifest one or two symptoms.
Your physician will use various strategies to diagnose and detect chronic venous insufficiency. First, the physician will try to know your medical history and lifestyle. The physician might also ask about your family’s medical history to know if your family has a history of CVI. Next, your doctor will look at your legs and focus on the appearance of leg veins when you stand or when sitting with the legs dangling.
You may also undergo various imaging tests. One standard test is the duplex ultrasound, which uses sound waves to reveal the size of your veins and blood flow. The condition can also help the physician rule out associated problems, such as blood clots. If the swelling is severe, an MRA or CT scan can help show any blockages in the legs and abdomen.
Doctors use various treatment procedures depending on your condition and overall health. The treatment might include regular exercise, medicines, radiofrequency ablation, surgery, and sclerotherapy.
If you suspect that you have chronic venous insufficiency, visit the Cardio Vascular Institute. Our healthcare experts have a combined experience of more than 50 years. Contact us now to book an appointment.