Understanding Chronic Venous insufficiency
Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) is a common disease caused by veins in your legs that don’t allow blood to flow properly back up to your heart. This can lead to the blood flowing backwards rather than up to your heart. CVI can be genetic or may happen after you’ve had a blood clot in your leg.
If you or a loved one has received a CVI diagnosis, it can be alarming. Dr. Mary Hanley, medical director of the Wound, Hyperbaric Medicine and Limb Preservation Program at Roper St. Francis Healthcare says, “The body has the innate ability to heal itself. Sometimes it just needs a push in the right direction.” So, the good news is that while this disease isn’t curable, with your doctor’s guidance, it is manageable.
Risk Factors of CVI
One in 20 adults are diagnosed with chronic venous insufficiency. However, CVI is more common in women, especially if you’ve had children. There are other factors that may mean you’re more at risk, including:
- Already having a diagnosis of varicose veins. One in 50 people with various veins develop CVI.
- Being over the age of 50. The older you get, the higher the risk.
- Being pregnant. During your pregnancy, your progesterone levels increase, which causes vein walls to relax or weaken. This may lead to you developing CVI.
- Having a history of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This is scar tissue that is left behind in a vein after a blood clot is gone
Symptoms to Be Aware Of
There are three types of veins in your legs: deep veins, superficial veins and perforating veins. Once even one of these veins is damaged, you may start having symptoms of CVI, including:
- Abnormal feelings in your legs, such as burning or a “pins and needles” sensation
- Discolored, reddish-brown skin
- Leathery-looking skin on your legs
- Swollen, achy legs and ankles, which feel worse throughout the day
- Ulcers (open sores) that typically appear around the ankles
- Varicose veins
Usually, the first symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency are mild. But left untreated, they can worsen over time. It’s important to see your doctor as soon as you notice any cause for concern. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you can begin to feel better.
Next steps after diagnosis
Your doctor will tailor a treatment plan just for you. Of course, receiving treatment for CVI will keep you as healthy as possible. But it will also keep you from dealing with negative side effects from your untreated symptoms. Visit or communicate with your doctor on a regular basis to avoid:
- Burst capillaries, which occur when CVI raises the pressure in your legs so high that tiny blood vessels (capillaries) rupture
- Infections caused by open sores such as cellulitis
- Tissue inflammation or permanent damage
- Venous stasis ulcers (open sores) on your skin
Based on your symptoms and risk factors, your doctor will offer you several treatment choices. These might include medicine, wearing compression socks or surgery, if needed.
A new diagnosis of CVI can be challenging. But when you understand your disease and communicate with your doctor, it’s possible to live well and enjoy life as much as you did before you were diagnosed.