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Chronic Venous Insufficiency

A major contributor to life-threatening strokes

OVERVIEW

If you have CVI, valves in your veins (usually in the leg or sometimes the arms) don't work, causing blood to pool in your legs and putting increased pressure on the walls of the veins.  May be due to valve dysfunction (usually hereditary) or due to valve destruction after a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clot.

Fairly common, usually chronic

May affect up to 40% of the U.S population.  More common in women (especially after multiple pregnancies) and in people who are middle-aged or older.

SYMPTOMS

Most symptoms are mild, and not limb-threatening.

Heaviness, swelling & pain

You may feel heaviness in the affected limb, as well as swelling and pain. Sometimes there is a darkening of the skin. An open sore or ulcer may develop—if your leg is affected, usually on the inside of the ankle—and it may be difficult to heal.

Varicose veins

Enlarged and twisted veins close to the surface of the skin are a sign of a milder form of venous disease. You may feel burning, aching, heaviness and pain.

CAUSE

Vein valves become incompetent, especially when standing, for unknown reasons.

A blood clot in a deep vein that causes your vein valves to fail and may completely block the vein.  This causes greater swelling and can lead to tissue changes that may cause darkening of the skin, dermatitis or ulcers.

DIAGNOSIS

See a vascular surgeon

You will be asked questions about symptoms and medical history, including questions about family members. The vascular surgeon will also perform a physical exam.

Tests may be recommended

  • Duplex ultrasound testing to look at your vein valves and see if they work.

  • In cases where severe swelling occurs and is difficult to treat, a computer tomography (CT) scan of the venous system to look for vein narrowing or blockage in your abdomen.

RISK FACTORS​

  • Family history of Varicose Veins

  • Being overweight

  • Standing or sitting for long periods of time

HOW IS IT TREATED?

Most treatment is nonsurgical. The main goal is to prevent severe swelling and ulcers from developing.

  • Compression garments relieve symptoms and aid ulcer healing.

  • If superficial veins are affected, they may be treated through vein ablation or injection. 

  • If varicose veins develop and are close to the skin, they may be removed through superficial vein stripping, usually an outpatient procedure.

  • If deep veins are affected, in severe cases angioplasty and stenting maybe recommended.

  • In rare cases, surgical bypass may be required.

PREVENTION

  • Maintain a normal weight

  • Exercise regularly

  • Wear compression garments

  • Maintain good skin care

  • If you have had a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), it is essential to stick with any anticoagulation medications you have been prescribed

 

WHEN TO SEE THE DOCTOR

While CVI isn’t curable, it’s quite treatable. People with CVI can lead long, healthy lives while managing their condition. You have many options available, from lifestyle changes to nonsurgical outpatient procedures that can happen in less than an hour. To learn more about your CVI treatment options, schedule a consultation with Omni Vascular.

Additional Treatments

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Visit Society of Vascular Surgery for more information.