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Venous Insufficiency

Venous Insufficiency

Definition

Chronic venous insufficiency is a problem with how your veins are working. Veins collect blood from the body to bring back to the heart. The veins have one-way valves throughout the blood vessel that keep the blood moving in the right direction, toward the heart. When these valves do not close properly, blood can leak backwards. This can cause a back up of blood in the veins especially areas of the body where veins must work against gravity like the legs.

Venous Insufficiency
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Causes

Chronic venous insufficiency is caused by higher than normal pressure in the veins and damage to the valves that keep blood flowing toward the heart. It can be caused by blood clots or swelling and inflammation of the veins. Blood clots in the legs can damage the valves in the veins. When people get chronic venous insufficiency after a blood clot, it may be referred to as post-thrombotic syndrome. When it occurs after phlebitis, it may be referred to as post-phlebitic syndrome.

Causes of chronic venous insufficiency include:

  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Phlebitis
  • Absence or weakness of valves in the leg veins that is inherited at birth
  • Increased venous pressure in the legs for any reason

Risk Factors

Chronic venous insufficiency is more common in women and in people aged 50 years and older. Other factors that may increase your chance of getting chronic venous insufficiency include:

  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Family members with deep vein thrombosis or varicose veins
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Regularly sitting or standing for long periods of time
  • Wearing restrictive clothing such as very tight girdles or belts

Symptoms

Chronic venous insufficiency may cause:

  • Swelling of the legs
  • Pain in the legs, especially after walking:
    • Aching
    • Dullness
    • Tiredness
    • Cramping
  • Red or brown darkening of the skin on the legs
  • Varicose veins
  • Ulcers on legs, especially around the inside of the ankles
  • Scaling skin on legs
  • Hard, leathery skin on legs

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:

  • Duplex scanning—venous Doppler ultrasound
  • Venogram

Treatment

Treatment is aimed at maintaining blood flow and preventing it from pooling. Treatment involves the following:

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of developing chronic venous insufficiency, take these steps:

  • Maintain a healthful weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how to quit.
  • Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time.
  • Avoid wearing restrictive clothing such as girdles or belts.
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