What Is Venous Insufficiency?
Venous insufficiency, also known as venous reflux, is a condition that develops when the veins in your legs become unhealthy or damaged. This causes blood to reflux or pool in your veins, which leads to many uncomfortable symptoms such as leg pain, burning, itching, restless legs, heaviness, and fatigue. When left untreated, venous reflux can lead to more significant clinical issues such as pain, chronic swelling, skin discoloration, thickening of the skin, and ulceration.
Healthy veins help the heart circulate blood through the lower extremities through the use of tiny valves. These valves prevent blood from returning towards the heart and keep a continual flow. Unfortunately, these veins can become damaged or dysfunctional over time. With poor valve control, blood no longer flows the way it should. Blood pools, causing discoloration due to the build-up of oxygen-starved blood cells. If the backup is serious enough, blood clots can form that may threaten your life.
More than 30 million people in the U.S. are affected by this disease with only 1.9 million seeing treatment annually. This leaves the vast majority undiagnosed and untreated. If you have had issues with venous insufficiency, you know that it can be an embarrassing condition. The desire to hide spider veins, varicose veins, and discoloration is very understandable. But without treatment, you may experience progressive symptoms such as swollen legs, skin damage, and/or ulcers that can be debilitating and significantly impact your quality of life.
When diagnosing venous insufficiency, a duplex ultrasound is performed on the lower extremities to look at the diameter of the vein. Veins of certain diameters are considered abnormal and qualify for treatment under an individual’s insurance requirements. Also looked at under ultrasound is reflux or backflow of blood in the veins. Individuals with known dilation, reflux, and bothersome symptoms can benefit from treatment to their diseased veins by having them shut down. In essence, our many treatments involve rerouting blood from the damaged vein to healthier ones by carefully blocking off the irregular flow.
Chronic Venous insufficiency (CVI) is a condition in which the saphenous veins of the legs become enlarged. This leads to a malfunction of the vein and poor flow of blood back to the heart. This also causes the formation of varicose and spider veins. Often these varicose veins are not seen on the surface of the skin but are deeper in the leg and can only be seen under ultrasound. This poor circulation, blood pooling, and enlarging leg veins can cause significant symptoms.
These symptoms can include:
- Generalized leg pain, aching, swelling, heaviness, or fatigue
- Burning or itching of legs
- Skin discoloration and/or ulcers, open wounds, or sores
- Browning of the skin, particularly around the ankles
- Restless leg syndrome or cramping
- Bleeding from varicose veins
- Pain and tenderness of varicose veins
- Leg ulcers that heal slowly or not at all
Both deep and surface varicose veins and spider veins can bring on these symptoms. Fortunately, for most instances, conservative treatment options like compression stockings, leg elevation, low salt diets, daily exercise, weight management, and analgesics for pain can all be used to relieve symptoms. Although this will not fix the physiological problem at hand, these measures can help an individual manage their symptoms before treatment.
Vein problems are common. In fact, almost half of men and women can expect to develop some sort of venous disease before they reach their 60s. Factors that contribute to the development of venous insufficiency include:
- Family history of vein condition
- History of pregnancy
- Being female (due to the presence of the progesterone hormone)
- Trauma to lower extremities
- Heart failure and heart issues
- Occupations requiring prolonged standing or sitting
- Obesity or a history of being overweight
Treatment of Venous Insufficiency
At Heart of Dixie Vein and Vascular Center, we give you many different treatment options that can solve your venous insufficiency problems. In the past, removing and blocking veins was very painful and required long recovery times. Modern treatments that we provide today leave behind no scarring or marks and are same-day procedures that only require minimal support for proper healing.
Radiofrequency ablation is an ultrasound-guided, minimally invasive treatment option for superficial venous reflux. A thin catheter is inserted into the vein through a small opening. Using radiofrequency energy, the catheter disrupts the tissues of the vein wall as it heats and seals the vein shut. This is an in-office procedure done in 30–60 minutes, with local anesthetic only and no down-time after the procedure. Our patients can walk right out of the office with no need for a “recovery” period.
Following the procedure, a simple compression dressing is placed on the treated leg to aid in healing. A compression stocking will be worn for a short time post-procedure for optimal results. You will be encouraged to avoid prolonged standing or sitting in addition to any extremely strenuous activities for a while. Perhaps surprisingly, moderate activity levels after the procedure can help prevent additional venous insufficiency issues and help you recover faster.
Closure of the saphenous veins may also be done by a procedure known as laser ablation where laser energy is emitted inside the vein to close it down. However, studies have shown that those treated with radiofrequency ablation experienced less leg pain, less bruising, and less complication, resulting in a faster and less painful recovery than those treated with laser ablation.
Many also reported that their quality of life improved up to four times faster than those treated with laser ablation. For this reason, we provide radiofrequency ablation in addition to what is known as VenaSeal as our treatment of choice for the closure of saphenous veins. Radiofrequency ablation is covered by insurance once all requirements are met. Individual insurance requirements can be discussed with the Heart of Dixie Vein and Vascular team.
The VenaSeal closure procedure improves blood flow by sealing or closing the diseased vein. The system delivers a small amount of specially formulated medical adhesive to the diseased vein. The adhesive seals the vein, and blood is rerouted through nearby healthy veins. Though this treatment is not covered by insurance, it is the treatment of choice by those who wish to seek immediate treatment and do not want to wear compression stockings required by insurance for radiofrequency ablation. In comparison to both laser ablation and radiofrequency ablation, VenaSeal Closure requires the least amount of healing time. You will also see faster results in the fading of discoloration. Details of the procedure, pricing, and scheduling can be discussed with the Heart of Dixie Vein and Vascular team.
Heart of Dixie Can Help You Heal
If you have any questions about the treatment plans we offer, don’t hesitate to call us and make an appointment. We perform ultrasound tests to view any vein problems and advise you on the right procedures. Additionally, we will work with your insurance to ensure you can heal without the worry of cost.