Chronic venous insufficiency can hold you back. Symptoms of CVI are often painful and bothersome, while the disease itself is an indicator of a serious blood flow problem in your leg veins. But don’t worry—chronic venous insufficiency can be treated.
Learn about what your options are if you have CVI by reading further.
What Is Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI?)
Chronic venous insufficiency—also known as CVI—happens when the veins in your legs have difficulty sending blood back up to your heart. Usually, they pump blood throughout your entire body. These leg veins allow the blood to circulate throughout your leg then back to your heart. If it doesn’t flow back up, then blood pools down in your legs, causing CVI and other leg complications.
Quick Stats about Chronic Venous Insufficiency:
- 40% of U.S. people have CVI
- CVI commonly affects people over 50
- More women have CVI than men
What Causes CVI?
CVI is commonly caused by blood clots and varicose veins, although a lot of other factors come into play. When blood clots cause CVI, the forward flow of blood through the vein is obstructed, and blood pools up underneath the clot. Varicose veins usually have missing or damaged valves in which blood leaks back down into the leg. The other factors include:
Another more serious cause of CVI is deep vein thrombosis. Up to 20% of patients that experience deep vein thrombosis can have permanent damage in their vein valves. This means the valves won’t fully enable blood flow and may cause blood pooling in the legs.
What Are the Risk Factors of CVI?
Risk factors of CVI include:
- Pre-existing vein conditions, like varicose veins
- High blood pressure
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Blood clots
- Damaged valves
What Are the Symptoms of CVI?
You may be at risk for CVI if you have experienced any of the following symptoms:
- Swollen or heavy legs, especially in your lower legs or ankles
- Pain that worsens when you stand
- Leg cramps
- Throbbing in your legs
- Skin discoloration
- Restless legs
- Varicose veins
These symptoms typically worsen over time, especially if you let them go untreated and undiagnosed. This can ultimately lead to ulcers, bleeding, or even potentially life-threatening deep vein thrombosis.
Stages of Chronic Venous Insufficiency
The first step to treatment is knowing what stage your CVI is in. This is determined when you visit your local vein clinic to get a screening and a vein mapping ultrasound. The stage you are in determines the treatment you will receive.
Treatment for Early Stages of CVI
If you’re in the early stages of CVI, treatment tends to be geared towards lifestyle changes that will improve blood flow. One of the most common treatments for early CVI is compression socks. Compression socks apply pressure to your ankle and lower leg to help improve blood flow and reduce swelling. Based on your symptoms, your vein doctor will tell you the strength and length of the prescription sock you need.
Other treatments include:
- Elevating your legs as often as possible
- Keeping legs uncrossed when sitting
- Engaging in physical activity and exercise regularly
- Taking medications like diuretics and anticoagulants
Treatment for Later Stages of CVI
If you have serious CVI, you might need to get surgical procedures to help improve blood flow. This advanced treatment will be determined by your doctor’s diagnosis. Treatments can include:
This is when your doctor inserts a catheter into your leg vein to close off bad veins with heat and light. This helps redirect blood into your healthy veins and improves blood flow. This minimally invasive procedure takes about 45 minutes.
Sclerotherapy is a non-surgical treatment in which a sclerosant solution is injected into the vein, causing scarring. Similar to endovenous laser ablation, this redirects blood flow into healthy veins. The veins that had the sclerosant injected into them will shrink until they are reabsorbed into tissue and are no longer visible.
For severe cases of CVI, surgery is needed. This may mean ligation or surgical bypass. Usually, this is reserved for when CVI affects deep veins and not superficial ones.
Get Checked for CVI—For Free
If you have experienced any CVI symptoms or have a family history of CVI, it’s best to stay on top of your vein health by getting checked out at your local vein clinic. Sometimes, symptoms of CVI may go unnoticed, causing further complications down the line.
Regardless of risk factors and causes, screening for chronic venous insufficiency can help you keep your legs healthy. At Gilvydis Vein Clinic in Geneva & Sycamore, we know just how important vein health is—which is why we offer free screenings.
Get your free screening today! Request your free screening right on our website, and get ready to love your legs again.