Defined as a condition that develops when the venous wall and/or the valves in the leg veins do not work properly, which causes the blood to pool in the veins and have difficulty returning to the heart, this serious medical condition can be very common and can present itself with venous leg ulcers in the more severe cases. This is a chronic, somewhat rapidly progressing disease that affects a whopping 25 million people in the United States. The causes of chronic venous insufficiency vary, but the most common of all causes are blood clots, varicose veins, and a genetic predisposition.
Venous insufficiency symptoms include: swelling, leg cramps, a feeling of heaviness in the legs, a thickening of skin or change of color in the skin around the ankles, the appearance of varicose veins, and the most serious of all symptoms, leg ulcers. The pain that the patient is experiencing will lessen in its severity when the legs are raised, but will worsen when standing. Itchiness, weakness, and tightness in the calves are also signs of chronic venous insufficiency. If you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms, physician intervention is required. Diagnosis can be determined by a venogram or a duplex ultrasound.
The treatment of this disease is varied according to the symptoms being exhibited. The most common treatment for this and all vein diseases is compression stockings that will help improve blood flow in the affected areas and reduce swelling. There are over the counter versions sold, but those issued by prescription are preferred as they come in different strengths and sizes.
Medications can be prescribed as well, including diuretics, anticoagulants, and pentoxifylline, which is a medication specifically used to improve the flow of blood. Exercise, leg elevation, and not crossing your legs when seated are all things you can do at home to lower the risks of the disease worsening. And finally, severe cases of chronic venous insufficiency may need surgery. Your physician will be able to determine what steps will need to be taken to treat and prevent CVI.
Chronic venous insufficiency can progressively get worse each year, and when left untreated, can become a severely disabling disorder capable of affecting your quality of life; physician diagnosis and treatment is of the utmost importance. If you have a genetic predisposition to CVI, there are things you can do that will lower the chances of you developing this life-altering condition, such as watching your weight, exercising regularly, not smoking, and if you have a career in which you spend prolonged periods sitting, make sure to get up every so often and move around.