Our veins and arteries are responsible for carrying blood from our heart throughout our body. Valves in our veins, ensure that blood is pushed in one direction, flowing back to our heart. These valves also stop blood from flowing backward.
Venous insufficiency occurs when our veins have difficulty moving blood back to our heart and pools in the legs as a result.
What Is Vein Disease (Venous Insufficiency)?
Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) is a common health condition affecting millions of Americans. A majority of people do not seek the appropriate care or treatment of this condition that progresses and worsens over time.
CVI occurs when veins do not allow blood to flow efficiently back up to your heart. Our valves contain one-way valves that ensure that blood flows in one direction towards your heart. When vein disease is present, the valves are weakened or no longer work correctly, allowing blood to flow backward and pool in your legs.
Below are 11 signs you may be suffering from vein disease:
- Varicose Veins
- Aching, throbbing or heaviness in your legs
- Pain that increases the longer you are on your feet
- Swelling of the legs or ankles
- Tightness in the ankles or calves
- Itchy Legs
- Weak Legs
- Skin changes and discoloration
- Restless leg syndrome
- Leg Ulcers
What Causes Chronic Venous Insufficiency
- Family History
- Trauma or injury to the leg
- Standing or sitting for extended periods
- Varicose veins
- Deep Vein Thrombosis
- Lack of exercises
How Is Chronic Venous Insufficiency Diagnosed?
You will meet with your doctor for an examination and to discuss your medical history, symptoms, and any risk factors you may be aware of.
Also, a venous ultrasound may be performed, which looks at blood flow and structure of the veins. Duplex ultrasound can also check the speed and direction of your blood flow in the blood vessels.
Receiving an ultrasound is a useful, fast, and a painless tool to pinpoint your diagnosis and determine the underlying cause.
How is Chronic Venous Insufficiency Treated?
Depending on the severity of the condition and your current health, your doctor will take the following factors into consideration when determining what treatment plan is most appropriate:
- Specific symptoms
- The severity of vein condition
- Risk factors
At the onset, the most frequent and commonly prescribed treatment is the use of compression stockings.
Compression stockings apply pressure at the ankle and lower calf, helping to push blood upward and prevent blood from pooling. They also help reduce swelling in the legs or ankles.
Additional Ways to Improve Blood Flow:
- Elevate your legs when possible
- Refrain from crossing your legs when seated
- Increase daily activity
Medical Treatments Available:
There are several medical treatments available to treat symptoms of vein disease. With the aid of specialized technology, treatments are often non-invasive, painless, safe, and performed on an out-patient basis without the need for anesthesia.
Some of the most common treatment includes:
Sclerotherapy involves the injection of a solution (“sclerosant”) or foam directly into the varicose vein. The solution irritates the vein, causing it to shrink and collapse.
Sclerotherapy does not require anesthesia or any specific preparation. During treatment, the doctor will insert a small needle into the vein to inject the solution. Patients typically experience a quick pinch but report relatively little discomfort and easy recovery.
More than one treatment is typically required to resolve symptoms and is commonly used for varicose veins and spider veins.
Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) or Laser Energy
Your doctor will insert a thin catheter into the varicose vein. Once positioned, the tip of the catheter will heat up using radiofrequency or laser energy. As the catheter is removed, the heat destroys the vein by collapsing the vein wall and sealing the vein shut. Blood will be redirected to nearby, healthy veins.
Before this procedure, a local anesthetic will be mixed with fluid and injected to the site to minimize discomfort and make the process painless.
Some of the latest laser technology involves no needles or incisions. Using strong bursts of light onto the vein, the diseased vein will gradually collapse. When the laser hits the skin, a tinge of discomfort is felt, but the doctor will quickly cool the skin off.
Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA)
EVLA, also known as VenaCure, is minimally invasive and safely treats varicose veins with targeted laser therapy.
A tiny incision is made to allow the placement of a small optic fiber directly into the diseased vein. EVLA treats the vein from the inside out by delivering heat that collapses veins with unhealthy valves. Eventually, the unhealthy veins are absorbed by your body, allowing for improved circulation.
The procedure is safe, short, and does not require general anesthesia. Patients report relatively painless recoveries.
In more severe cases, surgery may be required. Below are several surgical procedures performed in cases of severe venous insufficiency:
- Removing (stripping) the damaged vein
- Surgical repair of valves or veins
- Vein bypass
- Laser surgery
- Endoscopic surgery
In some cases, the use of prescription medication may be needed. These may include:
Medicines that aid in thinning the blood.
Medicine that helps draw extra fluid from your body and excretes them through your kidneys.
Medication that improves blood flow.
Frequently asked questions
Unfortunately, if vein disease runs in your family, you may not be able to prevent the onset of vein disease.
However, there are several lifestyle factors you can implement that will reduce your chances or lessen the severity of the condition:
- Do not smoke
- Maintain regular exercise
- Maintain a healthy weight and diet
- Avoid sitting or standing for extended periods
- Increasing blood circulation to the legs