Chronic Venous Insufficiency
What is chronic venous insufficiency?
Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when your leg veins don’t allow blood to flow back up to your heart. Normally, the valves in your veins make sure that blood flows toward your heart. But when these valves don’t work well, blood can also flow backwards. This can cause blood to collect (pool) in your legs.
Chronic venous insufficiency is not a serious health threat. But it can be painful and disabling.
What causes chronic venous insufficiency?
The causes of chronic venous insufficiency include:
- High blood pressure in the leg veins over time, due to sitting or standing for long periods
- Lack of exercise
- A blood clot in a deep vein, often in the calf or thigh (deep vein thrombosis)
- Swelling and inflammation of a vein close to the skin, often in the legs (phlebitis)
Who is at risk for chronic venous insufficiency?
You are more at risk for this condition if you:
- Are overweight
- Are pregnant
- Have a family history of it
- Have had damage to your leg because of injury, surgery, or previous blood clots
What are the symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency?
Symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency may include:
- Swelling in your legs or ankles
- Tight feeling in your calves or itchy, painful legs
- Pain when walking that stops when you rest
- Brown-colored skin, often near the ankles
- Varicose veins
- Open sores on the legs (leg ulcers) that are sometimes hard to treat
- An uncomfortable feeling in your legs and an urge to move your legs (restless legs syndrome)
- Painful leg cramps or muscle spasms (charley horse)
These symptoms may seem like other health problems. Talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How is chronic venous insufficiency diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will take your health history and give you an exam. You may also have an imaging test called a Duplex ultrasound. This looks at blood flow and the structure of your leg veins. It checks the speed and direction of blood flow in the blood vessel.