What is Venous Insufficiency?
Our veins and arteries are responsible for carrying and distributing blood from our heart and throughout our entire body. Veins will return the blood back to the heart for oxygenation. Individual one-way valves in our veins, function to push our blood in one direction towards the heart, preventing the backflow of blood.
Healthy veins allow for a continuous flow of blood from the limbs to the heart
When these valves weaken, it becomes difficult to send blood from our limbs back to our heart. When this occurs, some of the blood flows backward, and pools in the veins of the leg, a condition known as venous insufficiency.
What Causes Venous Insufficiency?
The leading causes of venous insufficiency are varicose veins and blood clots, such as Deep Vein Thrombosis.
In the case of varicose veins, the one-way valves do not work correctly, are weakened, or may be missing, allowing blood to flow back through the damaged valves. When this occurs, blood will pool in the vein, increasing pressure inside the vein and leading to congestion that causes the vein to bulge and twist.
Excessive pressure on the legs can lead to the development of varicose veins, as in the case of pregnancy, obesity, and standing or sitting for extended periods.
Blood clots occur when blood flow is obstructed, causing blood to build up inside the vein and form a clot. A blood clot is a clump of blood that has turned into a solid state.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
DVT is a dangerous condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein deep inside your body. These types of vein clots usually form deep in your thigh or the lower in the leg.
Symptoms of DVT
It’s important to note that symptoms only appear in 50% of people who have DVT. If you notice any of the symptoms below, it is critical that you contact your doctor immediately:
- Swelling in your foot, ankle or leg (typically only on one side)
- Cramping that begins in the calf
- Sudden, extreme pain in the foot or ankle
- Skin that feels warm to the touch
- Skin that turns pale, reddish or blue
Sadly, some people do not realize that they have DVT until they’ve suffered a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that has detached from deep inside the body and traveled to the lungs.
When a lung artery is blocked, it is a life-threatening situation that required immediate, emergency attention.
Other Potential Causes:
Women are more likely than men to develop venous insufficiency, and it is more common in adults over the age of 50.
Also, leg muscle weakness can contribute to the development of venous insufficiency as the muscles help squeeze blood forward towards the heart.
Risk Factors that May Cause Venous Insufficiency
- Blood Clots
- Varicose Veins
- Muscle weakness, trauma or leg injury
- Phlebitis (swelling of a superficial vein)
- Family history of vein disease
- Sitting or standing for extended periods
What Are the Symptoms of Venous Insufficiency?
Venous Insufficiency may not always cause pain, so it is important to keep an eye on any new developments such as veins that are bulging, dark blue or purple.
Also, take note if the veins look ropey, twisted, bulging or cord-like in your legs.
- Swelling (edema) of the ankles and legs
- Leg cramping
- Aching, throbbing, or itching in the legs
- A sensation of heaviness or fatigue in the legs
- Pain that gets worse when you stand but improves when you elevate your legs
- Skin discoloration or thickening of the skin around ankles and legs
- Varicose Veins
- Tightness in the calves
- Leg ulcers or sores that will not heal
Can I Prevent Venous Insufficiency?
Unfortunately, should you have a family history of vein disease, you may not be able to prevent it entirely; however, there are lifestyle changes and steps you can take to help lessen the chance of developing the condition or the severity.
- Avoid sitting or standing for extended periods
- Do not smoke
- Get exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight and diet
- Avoid high heels and tight clothing around the waist and pelvis
Can I Improve Blood Flow in My Legs?
Luckily, there are many things you can do to help improve the circulation of blood in your legs.
- Exercise regularly to get the blood pumping and moving
- Do not cross your legs when sitting
- Stay hydrated
- Wear compression stockings
- Elevate your legs when possible