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Venous Insufficiency

Venous insufficiency is a condition in which your veins have trouble sending the blood in your limbs back up to your heart; when this occurs, the blood pools in your leg veins.

Symptoms of venous insufficiency include:

  • Swelling of the legs and/or ankles
  • Leg pain from walking or standing that is relieved when legs are raised
  • Leg cramps
  • Weakness in legs
  • Itchy legs
  • Heaviness or aching in legs
  • Thickening or color change of the skin on legs/ankles
  • Leg ulcers
  • Tight feeling in calves
  • Varicose veins

Causes

The most common causes of venous insufficiency are blood clots or varicose veins. This condition is more common in women than men and in individuals over 50 years old. Other risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Cancer
  • Leg injury
  • Family history
  • Sitting or standing for long periods of time

Diagnosis

Your doctor will begin diagnosing venous insufficiency with a complete physical examination. They may also order imaging tests, including a venogram and duplex ultrasound. In a venogram, contrast dye is injected in the vein to help the doctor see if there is a blockage in a blood vessel on an X-ray. The duplex ultrasound tests the direction and speed of the blood flow in the veins by combining a traditional ultrasound which uses sound waves that bounce off the blood vessels to create pictures with a Doppler ultrasound which records sound waves reflecting off moving objects, like blood, to measure blood flow.

Treatment

Your physician will develop a treatment plan for you based on your condition, health history, symptoms, etc. Compression stockings are the most common way to treat venous insufficiency, as they improve blood flow and reduce swelling. Other ways to improve blood flow include: regular exercise, elevating your legs regularly and not crossing your legs. For some patients, medications are prescribed to improve the condition, and for the more serious cases surgery, phlebectomy, sclerotherapy and catheter procedures may be recommended.