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Have you been trying to keep up with the things you enjoy in life? You’ve noticed your legs have felt heavy, you’ve been fatigued, leg pain is holding you back from your regular activities, interrupting your night’s sleep, and you’ve developed painful protruding veins on your legs. If you’re experiencing these non-emergent symptoms, it may be time to talk to your vein specialist about diagnosing and treating venous insufficiency.
Chronic venous insufficiency is a condition that affects the circulation of the veins of the legs, which can cause a range of uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms in the foot, ankle, and leg. While the damage to the vein valves that cause chronic venous insufficiency cannot be reversed, there are steps you can take to alleviate its symptoms and move towards a more active, healthy lifestyle without the pain and heaviness that’s holding you back.
Chronic venous insufficiency is a vascular disease caused when the tiny valves, or “bicuspid valves,” in the veins of the legs become damaged or ineffective and fail to pump blood back to the heart efficiently. When these valves become damaged, blood pools in the veins, causing various uncomfortable symptoms.
Symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency include:
Swelling or edema in the lower extremities, including feet, ankles, and calves.
Pain and cramping in the legs and feet are relieved by elevation.
Numbness, tingling, and a change of sensation in the legs and feet.
Sudden onset of restlessness leg syndrome.
A heavy feeling in the legs.
Pain when standing or walking.
Skin changes such as a painful thickening or hardening of the skin on the legs and feet, skin that becomes irritated and cracked, skin ulcers, or wounds that become hard to heal over time.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a primary cause of chronic venous insufficiency as the clot can damage valves that facilitate blood return to the heart. Individuals who have experienced deep vein thrombosis in the past are susceptible to or may have already experienced chronic venous insufficiency.
Seek immediate medical attention if one or both legs become swollen, hot to the touch, or discolored, or you’re experiencing sudden, unexplained pain in the calf or thigh, trouble breathing, or chest pains, as you could be experiencing symptoms of a DVT.
Once the valves in the veins are damaged, they cannot be repaired. However, chronic venous insufficiency is highly treatable, and its symptoms can be treated once the underlying causes are addressed. If untreated, chronic venous insufficiency can become chronic, and the symptoms can become more severe.
Chronic venous insufficiency can be caused by genetics, a history of injuries or trauma to the leg or lower extremity, pregnancy, and more. When patients understand the underlying causes of chronic venous insufficiency, they can help prevent and manage it effectively.
Some common causes of chronic venous insufficiency are:
Age: As individuals age, the risk of developing venous conditions, including chronic venous insufficiency, increases. Over time, wear and tear on the veins can lead to reduced efficiency in blood circulation.
Genetics: A family history of varicose veins or other vein-related symptoms can increase your susceptibility to chronic venous insufficiency. Genetic factors and your family's medical history, mainly if it includes a predisposition to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity, or diabetes, can significantly contribute to the development of chronic venous insufficiency over time.
Gender: Women are more likely to develop chronic venous insufficiency than men due to hormonal changes, such as those occurring during pregnancy and menopause, which can have a considerable impact on veins.
Trauma or Injury: Patients who have experienced trauma or injury to the calf that caused scarring or damage to the leg may be at risk for developing chronic venous insufficiency, as scarring can impact vein function.
Weight: The valves in your leg veins are already working against gravity to pump blood upward to the heart. Carrying extra weight adds additional pressure on these valves, making them more prone to damage.
Lifestyle: Patients with sedentary lifestyles who experience prolonged periods of sitting or standing in one place are at risk for chronic venous insufficiency. Long periods of inactivity can lead to blood pooling in the veins, cause damage to the bicuspid valves, or exacerbate existing symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency.
Smoking: Individuals who smoke are also at risk of suffering from symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency as the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke lowers oxygen levels in the blood, causing inflammation in the veins that can damage the bicuspid valves.
Alcohol Consumption: Drinking alcohol in excess can have a detrimental effect on the vascular system and potentially contribute to the development of chronic venous insufficiency by causing the blood vessels to expand, leading to continued dilation of the veins and the weakening of the vessel walls and valves. Increased or prolonged dilation of the vein walls can increase fluid pooling in the lower extremities. Occasional and moderate alcohol consumption is unlikely to exacerbate or cause chronic venous insufficiency.
Before you can address the symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency, your vein specialist will get a comprehensive medical history, asking about your symptoms, lifestyle, family history, and history of DVT or blood clots, and inquire about any underlying medical conditions contributing to your symptoms. They’ll perform a physical examination of the legs, inspecting the skin for discoloration, varicose veins, and ulcers, as well as checking for tenderness and swelling.
Your vein specialist may also perform an ultrasound to visualize blood flow in the leg veins to identify reflux or backward blood flow and pinpoint the location and severity of chronic venous insufficiency. Once diagnosed, your vein specialist will work with you to create an effective treatment plan to improve your quality of life and limit the symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency.
Chronic venous insufficiency is not reversible, but there are effective ways to alleviate and even reverse the symptoms of this condition and prevent it from becoming chronic.
Lifestyle changes and self-care are great ways to alleviate symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency. However, check with your care team before you take any supplements or use any products that promise instant, positive results, as they’re likely ineffective and could interact negatively with other medications or treatments you’re currently taking.
It’s always best practice to check with your vein specialist before introducing new over-the-counter products.
Here are some key strategies that you can take to be proactive against painful and uncomfortable symptoms:
Exercise: Regular physical activity focusing on strengthening the calf muscles greatly benefits individuals with chronic venous insufficiency. Strong calf muscles provide the necessary support for veins to effectively return blood to the heart, reducing swelling and leg pain. Walking, biking, and swimming are instrumental in improving blood circulation in the legs. Regular exercise is essential for maintaining healthy veins, so any movement you’re comfortable with is good movement. For patients with chronic venous insufficiency getting accustomed to a more active lifestyle, a little exercise is better than none.
Compression Stockings: Compression stockings gently apply even pressure to the leg veins, assisting in blood circulation and preventing blood pooling. They benefit individuals who sit for extended periods, such as those with desk jobs or on long plane or car journeys.
Elevation: Elevating your legs above heart level for around 30 minutes daily can aid in draining blood from the leg veins and facilitating its return to the heart. This simple practice can relieve the discomfort associated with chronic venous insufficiency symptoms.
Lifestyle Changes Maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise and a balanced diet is essential to alleviating symptoms, complications, and causes of chronic venous insufficiency.
Excess weight increases the strain on the valves in your veins, so following a healthy diet and weight loss plan can reduce the pressure on your circulatory system. Some patients also benefit from limiting their sodium intake, as high-sodium foods can contribute to water retention and leg swelling, adding additional pressure.
Seeking Professional Treatment: Lifestyle changes and self-care measures can help alleviate chronic venous insufficiency symptoms. It's crucial to consult a vein specialist for a comprehensive diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment plan that treats the symptoms and underlying causes.
Minimally Invasive, Outpatient Treatment: For patients whose chronic venous insufficiency has progressed significantly or when the symptoms are severe and not responding to conservative treatment and lifestyle changes, minimally invasive surgical procedures can be highly effective.
Minimally invasive surgical procedures to treat chronic venous insufficiency include:
Sclerotherapy: A minimally invasive technique used to treat spider veins and smaller varicose veins that entails injecting a saline-based solution into these problematic veins, prompting them to scar and collapse, redirecting the blood flow to healthier veins.
VenaSeal: A non-invasive procedure done in the office that eliminates the risk of nerve injury. A catheter is inserted into the vein to deliver medical adhesive, which seals the vein shut and directs blood flow to healthier ones.
Thermal or Laser Ablation: The modern alternative to outdated vein-stripping procedures, thermal or laser ablation, introduces a thin fiber into the damaged vein through the skin. Short bursts of heat and energy cause the vein to collapse, redirecting blood flow to healthier veins.
Ambulatory Phlebectomy: A minor outpatient surgical procedure involving the extraction of bulging veins through small incisions, enabling the rerouting of blood to healthier veins.
ClariVein: An office-based procedure that employs a dual approach to eliminate diseased veins, utilizing a rotating catheter tip to administer a sclerosing agent to block blood flow in the affected vein.
In the past, treatment for chronic venous insufficiency was invasive, with a long recovery time. Chronic venous insufficiency treatment options at Center for Vein Restoration are minimally invasive and require little recovery time. Our safe, comfortable, and practical procedures allow you to return to your daily routine within a few days, free from the painful symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency.
While adopting a healthy lifestyle can significantly alleviate the symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency, it's crucial to emphasize the importance of seeking professional treatment for this condition.
A vein specialist can provide the necessary guidance and interventions to help you manage and reverse the symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency effectively. The physicians and staff at CVR are experienced in treating all stages of vein disease. If you are experiencing symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency, don't hesitate to seek the expertise of a vein specialist to develop a personalized treatment plan that suits your needs. With the right approach, you can regain comfort and mobility, allowing you to lead a more fulfilling and active life.
Chronic venous insufficiency is a condition that can cause a range of uncomfortable and painful symptoms in the legs. Although the damaged vein valves cannot be reversed, there are effective methods for alleviating the symptoms and improving your quality of life.
A combination of a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, weight management, and the use of compression stockings, along with professional treatment from a vein specialist, can make a significant difference in managing and even reversing the symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency.
If you are experiencing symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency, don't hesitate to seek the expertise of a vein specialist to develop a personalized treatment plan that suits your needs. With the right approach, you can regain comfort and mobility, allowing you to lead a more fulfilling and active life.
By understanding the underlying causes, mechanisms, and risk factors of chronic venous insufficiency, you can make informed decisions about your vein health, taking proactive steps to improve your quality of life.
Experience the forefront of vein treatment solutions and a patient-focused approach with the board-certified vein specialists at Center for Vein Restoration. Reclaim your quality of life with our expert diagnostic care and a comprehensive treatment plan designed to relieve chronic venous insufficiency symptoms, prevent complications, and swiftly return you to your daily routine.
Contact us at 1-800-FIX-LEGS (1-855-589-0242) to talk to a Patient Services Representative or book your consultation at a nearby CVR location today.