Our veins play such a crucial role in keeping our bodies healthy and functioning properly. That’s why it’s so important that we take care of them the best we can. Some things are out of our control, no matter how hard we try to keep ourselves healthy. However, some things over which we do have control include how closely we pay attention to changes that may indicate something is wrong and how quickly we get treatment.
If you’ve previously had deep vein thrombosis or if you spend much of your time sitting or standing, you’re at a higher risk of developing chronic vein insufficiency. You don’t need to be alarmed right away, especially if you don’t have any symptoms yet, which we discuss later on. However, it is important to be aware of this condition and know what to look out for should symptoms arise later. That’s why the health care professionals at Vascular Vein Centers are covering everything you should know about chronic venous insufficiency in this blog.
What is chronic venous insufficiency?
The veins in your legs carry out a vital function: They push blood back up to your heart using one-way valves. Your feet and calf muscles help them do this by squeezing your veins, which pushes your blood back up.
When these valves and/or venous walls become damaged and they’re no longer able to work effectively, your blood has a difficult time fighting gravity and moving upward, and instead that blood pools in the veins in your legs. This is called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) and results in skin changes, aching, swelling, and, if left untreated, ulcers.
What causes CVI?
The most common cause of CVI is having deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is a blood clot that occurs in a deep vein in your leg. The blood clot damages the affected veins, weakening their ability to push blood back up toward your heart. If CVI is caused this way, it’s also referred to as post-thrombotic syndrome. Up to 30% of people who suffer from DVT develop CVI within 10 years of their diagnosis.
Other causes of CVI include living a sedentary lifestyle, having vascular malformations, and pelvic tumors. Women are more likely than men to develop CVI. More risk factors include:
- Family history of CVI
- History of blood clots
- Being 50 years of age or older
- Pregnancy, or having been pregnant more than once
As CVI progresses, the severity of symptoms and seriousness of the disease increase. This is why it’s extremely important to call your doctor as soon as you notice any symptoms. The earlier you seek help, the more effective your treatment is. Symptoms to look out for include:
- Aching in your legs
- Itchy or flakey skin on your legs
- Leathery skin on your legs
- Swelling in your lower legs and ankles
- New varicose veins
- Stasis ulcers
If CVI is left untreated, swelling and pressure increase in your legs, causing the tiny blood vessels in your legs, called capillaries, to burst. Once this happens, your skin in the affected area turns reddish-brown, and tissue damage may occur. At its worst, ulcers, or open sores, develop on your skin, which can easily become infected. By this point, if the infection is not gotten under control, it can spread to surrounding tissue and become a separate condition known as cellulitis.
CVI is most treatable when diagnosed early. The sooner you seek treatment, the less likely you are to develop ulcers. Once you receive a diagnosis, a treatment or management plan is recommended based on your particular needs. Reducing the amount of blood pooling in your legs and preventing ulcers are the main goals of treatment. Some strategies for achieving these goals may include:
- Exercising regularly, especially walking
- Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
- Avoiding long periods of sitting or standing
- Elevating your legs when you’re lying down
- Practicing proper skin hygiene on the affected area
- Wearing compression stockings
- Taking medications
If your case of CVI is more advanced, nonsurgical treatments such as sclerotherapy and endovenous thermal ablation may be necessary. If the aforementioned conservative treatment options, as well as the nonsurgical options, are not effective, surgical intervention may be required. However, less than 10% of people with CVI require surgical treatment.
Don’t wait until your symptoms are severe. As soon as you notice any changes that reflect CVI symptoms, get checked out by one of our expert providers. Schedule an appointment at one of our many conveniently located Central Florida offices by giving us a call or scheduling an appointment online today.