Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) is a common medical condition that occurs when the venous walls or valves in the leg veins are not working efficiently to return blood from the legs back to the heart. The blood then collects in these veins, and remains stagnant. This condition in vein valves in both the lower and upper leg, generally results in swelling and skin discoloration.
What Is CVI?
In short, CVI is a result of poor circulation. Because blood must return to the heart through veins, the veins in legs are working against gravity. These veins must pump upward, meaning muscles in the feet and legs should contract with movement in order to push blood upward like a pipe delivering water from underground to a showerhead. To ensure this blood flows up and not down, leg veins functioning properly, should only allow blood flow in one direction-upward.
CVI, however, occurs when these one-directional valves become damaged and blood leaks downward. This creates a pooling blood effect which commonly results in swelling, discoloration, and varicose veins.
What Causes CVI?
Many factors can contribute to the development of CVI including:
- Old age
- Reduced mobility
- Genetically impaired circulation
- Extended sitting or standing
- Pelvic tumors
- Vascular malformations
- Blood clots – DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis)
Each of the above factors may contribute to the development of or result in CVI. When vein valves in the leg become too damaged to effectively deliver blood back up to the heart, blood pressure in these compromised veins stays too high for too long.
What Are CVI Symptoms?
CVI means that the valves in the veins of the legs are not moving blood upward as they should, resulting in a “traffic jam” of blood pushing upward against blood leaking downward. This pooling effect generally results in:
- Swollen legs, ankles, and feet
- Aching legs
- Skin discoloration
- Itching skin on affected areas
- Varicose veins
- Venous stasis ulcers
While many symptoms of CVI are purely cosmetic, some, such as venous stasis ulcers, warrant more serious concern. This occurs when the increased pressure on the blood vessels in the legs burst. These burst capillaries can sometimes result in tissue inflammation which can lead to ulcers or open wounds on the skin’s surface. These ulcers can become infected and are typically painful and unpleasant to look at. The infection can also spread, resulting in an illness called cellulitis, a bacterial infection in the skin which can be life-threatening if not treated.
How Can I Avoid CVI?
There are many simple ways to proactively prevent the development of CVI including:
- Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time
- Exercise often to promote good circulation
- Avoid obesity or severe weight gain during pregnancy
- Keep your legs elevated with pillows during sleep
- Wear compression stockings which can be prescribed
- Keep skin moisturized and use anti-itch cream
- Use antibiotics to treat skin infections
- Avoid a high sodium diet and drink plenty of water
- Wear loose clothing and stay warm
- Avoid smoking
What Are My Options For CVI Treatment?
After undergoing a vascular ultrasound which determines the level of blood circulation in the legs, a medical professional may recommend the following treatments depending on the severity of your case:
- Sclerotherapy injections
- Endovenous Thermal Ablation laser treatment
- Ligation & Stripping
- Microincision/Ambulatory Phlebectomy
As with any other medical condition or illness, the earlier CVI is detected, the less likely it will evolve into a major problem that will require surgery. Speak with an expert at Heart of Dixie Vein and Vascular Center in St George, UT today to learn more or to schedule a consultation or exam.