Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a condition that affects your veins – the blood vessels that carry blood from your organs and limbs back to your heart. If you have chronic venous insufficiency, it means that your veins are not working properly and the blood flow to your heart has been compromised.
As a progressive disease, chronic venous insufficiency is best treated as soon as possible -- but are you aware of your risk factors? How much do you know about this serious health threat?
Here are some important facts our team wants every patient to know about chronic venous insufficiency:
What is Chronic Venous Insufficiency?
Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when the valves in your veins stop working properly. These valves are responsible for keeping blood flowing in the right direction -- from your organs and limbs back to your heart.
When the valves don't work properly, blood can flow backward and pool in your veins. This causes the blood vessel to enlarge and swell, a condition known as . Usually affecting the leg veins, varicose veins are often visible on the skin as twisted, bulging veins.
What Causes Chronic Venous Insufficiency?
There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of developing chronic venous insufficiency, including:
- Age: Your risk of chronic venous insufficiency increases as you get older. This is because the valves in your veins naturally weaken over time.
- Gender: Women are at a higher risk of developing chronic venous insufficiency than men. This is due to hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, menopause, and other times in a woman's life.
- Family History: If you have a family member with chronic venous insufficiency, you're more likely to develop the condition yourself.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese puts additional pressure on your veins and can make it harder for blood to flow properly.
- Sedentary Lifestyle: If you have a job or lifestyle that requires you to sit or stand in one spot for long periods of time, you're at a higher risk of developing chronic venous insufficiency.
- Previous Blood Clots: If you've had a past blood clot, you're more likely to develop chronic venous insufficiency.
- High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure can damage the walls of your veins and make it more difficult for blood to flow properly.
What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Venous Insufficiency?
Chronic venous insufficiency often develops gradually and may not cause any symptoms at first. As the condition worsens, you may start to experience venous insufficiency symptoms, including:
- Leg swelling or ankle swelling
- Achy or heavy feeling in the legs
- Itching or burning sensation in the legs
- Painful leg cramps
- Muscle spasms
- Restless legs syndrome
- Wounds on the legs that heal slowly or don't heal at all
- Skin changes, such as discoloration of the skin on the legs
- Varicose veins and spider veins
If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's important to see a vein specialist right away. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to managing chronic venous insufficiency and preventing serious complications.
What Are the Complications of Chronic Venous Insufficiency?
If left untreated, chronic venous insufficiency can lead to a number of serious health problems, including:
- Skin ulcers: Also known as venous stasis ulcers, these open wounds usually form on the lower legs and ankles. They're often painful and can take weeks or months to heal.
- Inflammation: Chronic venous insufficiency can cause inflammation in the veins, a condition known as phlebitis. Phlebitis can be painful and may lead to blood clots.
- Blood clots: When blood pools in the veins, it increases the risk of developing blood clots. Blood clots can be life-threatening if they break free and travel to the lungs, heart, or brain.
How is Chronic Venous Insufficiency Diagnosed?
There are a number of different treatment options for chronic venous insufficiency. The best treatment plan for you will depend on the severity of your condition and your individual symptoms. Some chronic venous insufficiency treatment options include:
If you're experiencing symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency, the first step is to schedule a consultation with a vein specialist like our team at Sinai Laser Vein Center. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and review your medical history. At Sinai Laser Vein Center, we utilize to get a clear picture of the veins and assess blood flow. Ultrasound is a painless, non-invasive test that's used to diagnose a variety of conditions.
Once this venous disease is diagnosed, your doctor will develop a treatment plan to help you manage the condition and prevent complications.
How is Chronic Venous Insufficiency Treated?
There are a number of different treatment options for chronic venous insufficiency. The best treatment plan for you will depend on the severity of your condition and your individual symptoms. Some include:
- Compression stockings: Also known as compression socks. When you wear compression stockings, you apply pressure to the legs and help increase blood flow.
- Leg elevation: Holding your legs raised above your heart for short periods of time throughout the day can help reduce swelling and pain.
- Medication: Your doctor may prescribe medication to help manage pain, swelling, and inflammation, improving blood flow.
- Endovenous laser ablation (EVLA): EVLA is a minimally invasive procedure that uses laser energy to close off diseased veins. EVLA is an effective treatment for chronic venous insufficiency and can be done in our office in just one visit.
- Radiofrequency ablation (RFA): RFA is a minimally invasive procedure that uses heat to close off affected veins.
- Sclerotherapy: Sclerotherapy is an injections treatment that involves injecting a solution into the veins. The solution irritates the walls of the veins and causes them to collapse.
- Varithena: Varithena is an FDA-approved medication that's injected into the affected vein. It works by causing the veins to constrict and improve blood flow.
In some cases, we may recommend surgery to remove the diseased veins. Surgery is usually reserved for patients with more severe cases of chronic venous insufficiency, and we're passionate about utilizing the least-invasive treatment options available.
Visit the Top Vascular Surgeon Near You
If you're experiencing any symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency, contact . Our vascular surgery specialists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of and can develop a personalized treatment plan to help you feel your best.