Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when the veins of the legs weaken, losing their ability to effectively pump blood back up through the legs. This condition increases as people begin to age.
The venous pump is the way in which the body pumps the blood up and out of the legs. It works most effectively when a person’s leg muscles are contracting; i.e. through walking or exercise. Sitting or standing still causes the leg veins to increase in pressure. In the short term, this pressure is normal, but excessive periods of inactivity and longer pressure on the veins will eventually stretch and weaken the walls of the veins.
There are several symptoms that indicate chronic venous insufficiency:
- Breaking down/ulceration of the skin
- Edema or swelling
- Rash on the skin of the calves or ankles
- Red/discolored skin on the leg
- Varicose veins
Risk Factors for Chronic Venous Insufficiency
As mentioned above, one of the main risk factors for chronic venous insufficiency is extended, elevated blood pressure in the veins of the leg. There are also several other causes of the condition, including:
of increased pressure can stretch and weaken vein walls.
Increased blood pressure can stretch and damage vein walls. The veins may no longer be able to pump blood back to the heart.
Venous hypertension, or high blood pressure inside veins that persists over time, is a primary cause of CVI. CVI can also be caused by:
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or blood clot blocking a vein’s blood flow
- Phlebitis, or the inflammation of a smaller vein closer to the surface of the leg, causing a clot to form
While heredity, obesity, pregnancy, and smoking can all contribute to the condition, other factors also contribute to its development. These include leading a sedentary lifestyle, or working in jobs that require extended periods of sitting and/or standing in one place. This condition also occurs more often in women over the age of 50.
Treating Chronic Venous Insufficiency
While this condition is generally not considered a cause of death or even amputation of a limb, the pain can be debilitating. For this reason, doctors will pursue treatment options customized to the needs of each patient to help restore the ability to lead an active, pain-free life, including:
- Deep vein surgery
- Elastic compression
- Injection therapy
- Valve repair
- Vein stripping