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Chronic Venous Insufficiency

What is chronic venous insufficiency?

Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when the leg veins do not allow blood to travel back to the heart. (Arteries carry blood away from the heart, while veins carry blood to the heart). Problems with valves in the veins can cause the blood to flow both directions, not just toward the heart. These valves that are not working properly can cause blood in the legs to pool. If chronic venous insufficiency is left untreated, pain, swelling, and leg ulcers may result.

Chronic venous insufficiency does not pose a serious health threat, but the condition can be disabling and cause pain. The condition affects about 5 percent of the US population. It usually occurs in men between the ages of 70 to 79 and in women between the ages of 40 to 49. Estimates are that about 500,000 persons in the US have ulcers of the lower legs that are a result of this condition.

What causes chronic venous insufficiency?

Chronic venous insufficiency is more common among those who are obese, pregnant, or who have a family history of the problem. Individuals who have had trauma to the leg through injury, surgery, or previous blood clots are also more likely to develop the condition.

Other causes of chronic venous insufficiency include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • high blood pressure in the leg veins over a long time, due to sitting or standing for prolonged periods
  • lack of exercise
  • smoking
  • deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot in a deep vein, usually in the calf or thigh)
  • phlebitis (swelling and inflammation of a superficial vein, usually in the legs)
Treatment for chronic venous insufficiency:

Specific treatment will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • your signs and symptoms
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference