Louisiana Heart & Vascular Institute Vein Care Centers

Understanding Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) is a medical condition that affects the veins in the legs, hindering their ability to efficiently send blood back to the heart. This condition develops when the venous wall or valves in the leg veins are not working effectively, causing blood to pool in the legs. Understanding CVI, its causes, symptoms, and potential treatments can help those affected manage the condition effectively.

 

What is Chronic Venous Insufficiency?

Chronic Venous Insufficiency occurs when the veins’ valves that help regulate blood flow toward the heart fail. These valves prevent blood from flowing backward as it moves up the legs. If these valves become damaged or weakened, blood can pool in the legs, leading to various complications including pain, swelling, and leg ulcers.

 

Causes of Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Several factors can contribute to the development of CVI, including:

  • Age: The risk of CVI increases with age as the valves in the veins weaken.
  • Gender: Women are more likely than men to develop the condition, possibly due to hormonal influences.
  • Family History: Genetics can play a role, with a family history of vein problems increasing risk.
  • Obesity: Excess weight puts additional pressure on the veins.
  • Pregnancy: The increased volume of blood during pregnancy can strain the veins.
  • Lifestyle: Prolonged sitting or standing can exacerbate the risk.
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): A history of DVT can damage the valves in the veins, leading to CVI.

 

Symptoms of Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Recognizing the symptoms of CVI is key to early diagnosis and treatment:

  • Swelling in the legs or ankles
  • Pain that gets worse when standing and improves when legs are raised
  • Leg cramps
  • Aching or throbbing legs
  • Itchy or weak legs
  • Thickening and hardening of the skin on the legs and ankles
  • Skin discoloration
  • Leg ulcers

 

Diagnosing Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Diagnosis of CVI usually involves a physical examination and reviewing the patient’s medical history. Diagnostic tests may include:

  • Ultrasound: To assess blood flow and structure of the leg veins.
  • Venogram: An imaging test that involves injecting a contrast dye to visualize vein function.

 

Treatment Options for Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Treatment aims to improve blood flow in the leg veins and manage symptoms.

Options include:
  • Lifestyle Changes
  • Exercise: Walking can improve circulation.
  • Weight management: Reducing body weight to ease pressure on veins.
  • Leg elevation: Raising the legs above the heart several times a day.
  • Compression stockings: Wearing prescribed stockings to improve blood flow.

 

Medications
  • Diuretics: Used sparingly to reduce swelling.
  • Anticoagulants: For managing blood clot risks.
 
Surgical and Non-Surgical Procedures
  • Sclerotherapy: Involves injecting a solution into small- and medium-sized veins to close them.
  • Endovenous laser therapy (EVLT): Uses laser energy to seal off affected veins.
  • Vein stripping: Surgical removal of large veins.

 

Managing Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Alongside medical treatment, maintaining an active lifestyle and managing body weight are crucial for managing CVI. Regular follow-ups with a healthcare provider can help monitor the condition and adjust treatments as needed.

Chronic Venous Insufficiency is a manageable condition with a variety of treatment options available. Early detection and treatment are essential for preventing complications such as leg ulcers and further vein damage. If you experience symptoms of CVI, consult with the Louisiana Heart & Vascular Institute Vein Care Centers for a thorough evaluation and appropriate management plan to maintain active and healthy legs.

 
Further Reading:

Johns Hopkins: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/chronic-venous-insufficiency#:~:text=Chronic%20venous%20insufficiency%20occurs%20when,(pool)%20in%20your%20legs.