The main function of your veins is to return deoxygenated blood back to your heart. To help them perform their vital task efficiently and effectively, they have a series of one-way valves designed to keep blood flowing in the right direction.
Venous insufficiency occurs when the valves in your leg veins become too weak or damaged to function properly. When blood doesn’t flow through these dysfunctional valves as it should, it pools behind them and, over time, eventually makes that area of your vein swell.
When the problem persists, it’s called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). Experts estimate that CVI affects as many as 2 in 5 adults in the United States.
While anyone can develop CVI, the condition is most common in middle-aged and older adults, overweight or obese people, and those who sit or stand for long periods. Women are more susceptible to developing CVI than men, especially if they’ve had multiple pregnancies.
Common CVI symptoms include:
Although it isn’t considered a serious health threat, CVI does tend to progress over time. Early on, the condition is often manageable with thoughtful self-care. As it worsens, however, it can become more painful or even somewhat disabling.
As CVI progresses, especially if it’s been ignored and unmanaged from the start, it can lead to bothersome complications. These complications are so common in moderate to severe CVI cases that they’re generally viewed as later-stage symptoms of the condition. They include:
When a weak or damaged vein valve causes blood to back up and pool in one spot, it creates a partial blockage that puts pressure on the surrounding vessel wall. Over time, repeated pooling and swelling can stretch, twist, and distort the affected vein and cause it to become varicose.
Prominent dark blue or purple-hued varicose veins usually bulge against the surface of your skin. They often appear swollen, twisted, or rope-like. Smaller, milder, and less pronounced varicose vein types are called reticular veins and spider veins.
Constant pressure on one area of a vein wall can also lead to the development of an open sore called a venous ulcer. Venous ulcers occur when continual pressure and fluid buildup prevent nutrients and oxygen from reaching the surrounding tissues.
As the deprived cells die, tissues become damaged and prone to wound formation.
Most venous ulcers appear on the lower leg, usually somewhere above the ankle. They’re often accompanied by vein bleeding and can be very slow to heal.
When CVI appears to be progressing, treatment is the best way to prevent complications. Your personal treatment plan depends on a variety of individual factors, including your symptoms and medical history, the severity of your condition, and the probability that it will worsen.
Vein ablation is one of the most effective treatment solutions for CVI. There are two main types:
During this minimally invasive treatment, your doctor inserts a thin tube called a catheter into the affected vein area. The tip of the catheter is heated with laser energy, which causes the vein to collapse as the catheter is pulled out. Blood reroutes to healthier, functioning veins, and blood flow improves.
Also known as ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy, EVCA uses a chemical agent to close and seal problematic leg veins. During the treatment, your doctor injects the chemical into the affected vein, using ultrasound imaging to ensure precision. The chemical scars the vein and forces your blood to reroute into healthy veins.
To learn more about venous insufficiency treatments at Coastal Cardiology of Orange County, call the nearest office or schedule an appointment online today.