Understanding Chronic Venous Insufficiency
Problems with the veins in the legs may lead to chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). Chronic Venous Insufficiency is a condition that develops over several years, due to faulty valves in the veins. Early symptoms include ankle and leg swelling. If not treated, capillaries in the tissue surrounding diseased veins may burst, causing a reddish-brown skin discoloration. In addition, non-healing sores called venous stasis ulcerations may appear.
Problems that may lead to chronic venous insufficiency are:
- Damaged valves. Valves keep blood flowing from the legs through the blood vessels and back to the heart. When the valves are damaged, blood does not flow as well.
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Blood clots may form in the deep veins of the legs. This may cause pain, redness, and swelling in the legs. It may also block the flow of blood back to the heart. Seek medical care right away if you have these symptoms.
- A blood clot in the leg can also break off and travel to the lungs. This is called pulmonary embolism (PE). In the lungs, the clot can cut off the flow of blood. This may cause chest pain, trouble breathing, sweating, a fast heartbeat, coughing (may cough up blood), and fainting. It is a medical emergency and may cause death. Call 911 if you have these symptoms.
Healthcare providers call the two conditions, DVT and PE, venous thromboembolism (VTE).
CVI can’t be cured, but you can control leg swelling to reduce the likelihood of ulcers (sores).
Recognizing the Symptoms
Be aware of the following:
- If you stand or sit with your feet down for long periods, your legs may ache or feel heavy.
- Swollen ankles are possibly the most common symptom of CVI.
- As swelling increases, the skin over your ankles may show red spots or a brownish tinge. The skin may feel leathery or scaly, and may start to itch.
- If swelling is not controlled, an ulcer (open wound) may form.
While in many cases venous disease may be seen on the skin surface, however, in many cases oftentimes they are not. Once again, even if you do not visually see varicose or spider veins on the surface of the skin, it is not indicative of what is happening underneath the surface. Therefore, symptoms often associated with venous disease include leg pain, heaviness, throbbing, swelling, itching, restlessness, fatigue, numbness, cramping and burning.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Large varicose veins may indicate a critical blockage in deeper veins, a condition called deep vein thrombosis, that can be life threatening. At Ashchi Heart & Vascular Center, our technologists are trained to do a special ultrasound test called a venous insufficiency duplex to determine if the valves in the veins are functioning properly, and to check for evidence of a blood clot. Based on the test findings, a treatment plan will be recommended by our physician to best treat this disease. There are several minimally invasive outpatient treatment options with a high success rate of treating chronic venous insufficiency.
If you or a loved one shows any symptoms of CVI, we encourage you to make an appointment with one of our specialists. Please contact us at (904) 222-6656.