The vascular system is comprised of our veins and arteries. Arteries carry oxygenated blood away from the heart to the rest of the body. Veins, however, carry the blood back to the heart. Veins have valves that stop the blood from flowing backward. Chronic venous insufficiency or peripheral venous insufficiency is a venous disease that develops when the veins cannot send the blood from the limbs back to the heart. The blood does not get back to the heart and, in turn, causes blood to pool in your leg veins.
While there are many causes of venous insufficiency, the most common causes are varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis (blood clots). Some symptoms associated with chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) are pain, cramps, and discomfort in your lower leg. You may also begin to develop spider veins on your lower limbs.
According to the American Heart Association, about 2.5 million people experience venous insufficiency in America. Of these, about 500,000 people develop non-healing ulcers in the future. Besides discomfort and pain, people suffering from this condition may also notice that their legs have turned a darker color or developed a leathery texture.
As chronic venous insufficiency progresses, so will the the severity of your treatment plan. As such, seeking treatment as soon as you notice symptomatic development is crucial as this condition will not go away on its own. However, the earlier you can recieve treatment for CVI, the less likely you are to experience serious complications.
If left untreated, chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) can lead to pressure accumulation in your veins. The increased pressure causes swelling and forces even the smallest blood vessels (capillaries) to burst. When the capillaries burst, the overlying skin changes to a reddish-brown color. The skin is also more susceptible to being broken if scratched or bumped. Burst capillaries can lead to an array of health condition, including internal tissue inflammation or damage. In more severe cases, they can lead to an open sores on your skin called venous stasis ulcers. These ulcers are not only slow to heal, but also prone to infection. When the infections are not treated, they rapidly spread to surrounding tissue.
A physician will begin with a comprehensive physical examination. They will also take your medical history to properly diagnose your chronic venous insufficiency. An imaging test may also be ordered that identifies the source of the problem.
Duplex ultrasound utilizes high-frequency sound waves to look at the speed and direction of blood flow in the veins. This test will also show the blood vessel's width and reveal any blockages. A duplex ultrasound is non invasive, meaning you will not feel any pain during the test. To begin, the technician will place some gel on the skin and then press a transducer (a small handheld device) against your leg. The device emits sound waves that bounce back to a computer and shows images of how blood is flowing through your veins.
During its earliest stages, chronic venous insufficiency can be easily managed. Lifestyle changes, medications, and vascular procedures are all ways in which you can combat the effects of chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). Treatment often depends on an array of factors.
It is important to note that the effects of chronic venous insufficiency cannot be reversed. However, treatment can help reduce the impact of the reflux caused by the damaged valve. An effective combination of treatments can gradually reduce the severity of your symptoms. The following habits can be implemented at home to aid in managing the symptoms associated with CVI.
Compression socks are one of the most common treatments for chronic venous insufficiency. These elastic stockings apply pressure at the lower leg and ankle, helping to improve blood flow. The elastic stocking helps in reversing various CVI symptoms, including leg heaviness, fatigue, achiness, and swelling. Compression socks also help in resolving the tenderness of the varicose and spider veins. They come in a wide range of lengths and prescription strength. At Monterey Bay Vascular, we will help you decide what the best type of compression stocking is for your treatment.
Exercise stimulates blood flow. The veins depend on muscle contraction to help them return the deoxygenated blood from your feet to your heart. A sedentary lifestyle, such as standing or sitting for an extended period without moving, keeps the blood in your valves stagnant and therefore, contributes to CVI progression.
Elevating your legs allows gravity to bring the blood back towards the heart naturally. Doctors recommend raising your feet for at least 20 minutes, especially after a long day at work. Doing this will make your legs feel less achy and swollen. Ideally, ensure that your feet are above the level of your heart. To maximize the results, you can also purchase special leg elevation pillows.
Chronic venous insufficiency often causes itchy, dry skin prone to rashes, wounds, and infections. Dermatitis or skin irritation is easily managed by following a good skin care regimen. The following tips may help to keep your skin in good condition.
Modifying your diet will play a significant role in improving the health of your veins and overall well-being. Consuming the following foods will significantly reduce the symptoms associated with CVI.
Horse Chestnut is one of the best foods to combat the side effects CVI. Clinical trials have found it helpful in reversing CVI symptoms, including leg itching and swelling. It also helps in reversing skin discoloration and damage caused by CVI. Horse Chestnut extract is found in specialty vitamin stores as an over-the-counter supplement.
Staying well hydrated will improve blood viscosity, allowing it to flow more efficiently through your veins.
Some foods can lead to increased risks of inflammatory conditions that affect the blood circulation. Some of the foods that you should avoid include processed and fried foods. Instead, try to incorporate naturally derived, whole food groups prepared at home.
Take vitamin supplements
Research shows that supplements such as Omega 3 and turmeric can help thin the blood and minimize inflammation. Before taking these supplements, speak to your healthcare provider to ensure that this would be a beneficial method of treatment.
Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive method of treatment for venous conditions like spider or varicose veins. During a treatment session, a vascular specialist injects a solution into your varicose or spider veins that cause them to collapse and disappear. The procedure is relatively inexpensive and can be performed in our office. It helps to relieve pain and discomfort as well as preventing complications such as ulceration and venous bleeding.
In severe cases, the doctors also use the catheter to relieve pain in the large veins. The doctor usually inserts a thin tube (catheter) into the vein and heats the end of it. As the doctor removes the catheter, the heat will cause the vein to close and seal.
Endovenous thermal ablation is a new, advanced procedure that uses high-frequency radio waves or lasers to create intense local heat in the affected veins. Endovenous thermal ablation eliminates problematic veins with minimal bruising and bleeding.
With a condition as common as chronic venous insufficiency, many valid questions and concerns may come about when exploring avenues of treatment. What is the best avenue of treatment for me? When is surgical treatment necessary? Sometimes home remedies, medications, and nonsurgical treatments are not enough- especially when the disease is at an advanced stage. However, there are still options available for you. Surgical treatments can help combat advanced CVI.
Ambulatory phlebectomy is completed in an outpatient setting, meaning that an overnight stay is not required. During this minimally invasive procedure, a doctor will numb various spots on your leg, making tiny pricks, and removing small varicose veins.
Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is completely preventable. The following measures will help reduce your risk, especially if your family has a history of CVI.