Definition of Chronic Venous Insufficiency
Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), also referred to as venous reflux disease, is the primary cause of abnormal leg veins developing. It is considered a medical disease and often requires medical treatment. If an individual is developing bulging blue leg veins, then chronic venous insufficiency is usually the cause. The anatomical finding that is identified with this disease process is the presence of faulty, weak, and defective valves within the veins. Normal healthy veins have one-way valves that keep blood flowing up the legs and towards the heart. These healthy valves are constantly fighting gravity when a person is in the sitting or standing position. Whereas with chronic venous insufficiency, the faulty vein valves are broken and allow blood to travel backwards through the valves. This abnormal backward flow of blood (i.e. venous reflux) causes elevated venous pressure to develop in the legs. This elevated pressure is referred to as venous hypertension.
Symptoms of Chronic Venous Insufficiency
Chronic venous insufficiency causes more than just varicose veins of the legs. Chronic venous insufficiency is also one of the primary causes of chronic leg pain and leg swelling. It also leads to other medical complications including skin damage, blood clots, painful varicose veins, and bleeding from skin veins. Severe cases of this disease can even lead to the development of poorly healing wounds on the ankles or feet, referred to as venous stasis ulcers.
Does Chronic Venous Insufficiency Get Worse With Time?
Yes. Venous insufficiency is a progressive condition that always gets worse the longer it is left untreated. Over time the venous valve reflux spreads to more valves and more veins in a “domino effect,” destroying more healthy vein valves over time. Gravity becomes your enemy when you live with this condition, with the symptoms getting worse with prolonged standing or sitting. As the disease worsens, people often begin to experience more symptoms in their legs. This can include aching, burning, swelling, fatigue, itching, restless legs, heaviness, and pressure. There are often physical manifestations in the skin and tissues of the legs, ankles, and feet. This can include tan or brown skin discoloration, swelling, bulging blue veins, redness of the skin, skin rashes, wounds or ulcers on the ankles or feet, extensive spider veins or reticular veins of the skin, abnormal bleeding or bruising of the skin, or tenderness of the legs or feet.
What Causes Chronic Venous Insufficiency To Develop?
Venous reflux disease is usually an inherited condition. Many people that develop the condition have one or more immediate family members with the condition. They often have parents or grandparents with significant varicose veins of the legs, leg swelling, or discoloration of the skin of the ankles and feet.
You can also acquire chronic venous insufficiency as the result of your veins being damaged by blood clots or physical trauma. Often the signs and symptoms of venous insufficiency can presents many month or years from the time of the initial event (such as a DVT or blood clot). This is referred to as Post Thrombotic Syndrome or PTS.
How is Chronic Venous Insufficiency Diagnosed?
This venous disease is diagnosed through a combination of physical examination by a trained medical doctor and specialized venous imaging tests. We recommend that a Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation (RPVI) and a Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT) perform your venous assessment. There is a specific recommended imaging examination that is called a venous reflux ultrasound. This test is very accurate in diagnosing the condition when it is preformed by highly trained individuals. We suggest that you are diagnosed by a board-certified vein physician that is residency and fellowship-trained in vascular disease management.
What Are My Treatment Options if Diagnosed With CVI?
This question can only be answered if you are assessed by a qualified Vein Specialist that is board-certified in the diagnosis and management of venous diseases. Our physicians are highly-trained and have many years of experience treating this condition. Many individuals with this condition are cured of this disease. Call our Vein Center at (512) 339-9100 to schedule a one-on-one consultation with one of our certified Vein Specialists.