Your body contains a system of tubes that carry blood (oxygen and nutrients) to each cell in the body. Your arteries carry blood away from your heart to other areas of your body, while your veins work to transport blood back to your heart. When the veins in your legs are unable to efficiently return blood to your heart, it is known as chronic venous insufficiency (CVI).
What Causes Chronic Venous Insufficiency?
Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when the one-way valves in your veins, designed to send blood back to your heart, become damaged. Damaged valves cause the blood to flow backwards, pool up and increase blood pressure in the legs. Your valves can be damaged by:
- Extended sitting or standing
- Reduced mobility
Other conditions such as pelvic tumors and vascular malformations can influence the development of chronic venous insufficiency. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), however, is the most common condition that results in CVI. In fact, as many as 30 percent of people with DVT will develop this condition in 10 years.
Who is at Risk?
Certain people are more likely to develop CVI than others. Some factors are hereditary, but other factors can be avoided or minimized. Here are the most common risk factors for CVI:
- Over 50 years of age
- Family history of venous insufficiency or varicose veins
- Blood clots in the legs
Eating healthy, practicing good health habits and exercising regularly are all ways that can help decrease your risk of developing CVI. Consult with your doctor if you are concerned about developing CVI.
What Are The Symptoms?
The seriousness of CVI, along with the complexities of treatment, increase as the disease progresses according to the Cleveland Clinic. As such, it is important to share your symptoms with your doctor early on to avoid complications later. Common symptoms include:
- Swelling of the legs and ankles
- Varicose veins
- Aching, heaviness or cramping in the legs
- Itching and tingling skin
- Ulcers on the legs and ankles
- Thickening or discoloration of skin on the legs
If the symptoms of CVI go untreated, it can worsen the condition. Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you have any symptoms of venous insufficiency. Your doctor will perform an ultrasound and a physical exam to diagnose the condition. You may also be asked a variety of questions about your medical history and symptoms.
Your doctor can help you develop a treatment plan that is right for you based on the symptoms you experience and the severity of your condition.