What is Venous Insufficiency?
Venous insufficiency is the inability of the veins to pump blood from the feet back up to the heart. This is usually due to the wall or the valve of the vein being damaged, causing the blood to pool in the foot. Chronic venous insufficiency or CVI is a long-term version of this condition that can lead to severe symptoms, such as ulcers.
Symptoms of Venous Insufficiency
The most common symptom of the condition and usually the earliest is a swelling of the foot. This is because the blood is not being pumped back to the heart but is being retained in the foot. There are other symptoms that will signify that you have venous insufficiency; these include cramping, a heavy feeling in the legs and feet, itching, redness and varicose veins.
The condition can also be painful. The pain is often worse when standing as the veins have a harder time making the blood reach the heart. The pain can ease when legs are elevated, helping the blood flow to the heart.
In more serious cases, or CVI, you may also experience a thickening of the skin on the legs and feet. You can also develop ulcers, these can be painful and if left can become infected.
Causes of Venous Insufficiency
Venous insufficiency is more common in people who have had previous leg conditions, especially a blood clot (deep vein thrombosis) or varicose veins. This is because the vein has been weakened and it now does not carry blood properly and the blood can leak through the damaged walls.
Similarly, if you have recently injured your leg or had surgery there is a possibility that you may develop the condition. This is again due to the vein being weakened or damaged.
There are a number of other health factors that, while they may not be the direct cause of the condition, certainly add to the chances of developing it. Weight is one of these; venous insufficiency is more common in people who are obese. Similarly, people who do little exercise or sit or stand for long periods of time are more likely to develop it as they are not helping the blood to move.
There is a hereditary link to the condition as well; it has been found that people who have venous insufficiency in their families are more likely to develop it themselves than people who have no history of it.
Venous Insufficiency Treatments
There are a number of different treatments for the condition which we have outlined below. For more detailed information please visit our Venous Insufficiency Treatments page.
As previously mentioned, people who are overweight have a higher change of developing venous insufficiency. Therefore, to combat the condition it is important to lose weight by eating healthily and exercising regularly. This can have a number of other health benefits too.
Medicines, such as diuretics and anticoagulation medication can be used to help treat venous insufficiency. However, they do not always work and surgery may be more successful in the long-term.
This is more of an advanced procedure than medication but not quite as drastic as surgery. During sclerotherapy a chemical is injected into the damaged vein which scars it so it can’t carry blood anymore. Blood will then be pumped through other veins.
If none of these options work or of you have chronic venous insufficiency then surgery may be required. There are a number of different types; some try and reopen the vein, such as angioplasty where the vein is opened with the use of a tiny medical balloon.
Surgeons may also try to repair the valve, if it is this which is causing the condition, so it can function again properly.
Other venous insufficiency surgeries aim to block or remove the vein completely so it no longer pumps blood. Ablation is the act of closing off the vein using heat while ligation involves tying the vein off.
Vein stripping is a procedure where a vein is removed completely through an incision in the leg. This is only done when the vein is heavily damaged.