What is Venous Insufficiency?
- Venous insufficiency is a condition where the flow of blood through the veins is inadequate, causing blood to pool in the legs.
- It can be caused by several different vein disorders, but it’s most often caused by either blood clots or varicose veins.
- Your treatment options depend on what’s causing the condition, but your doctor might recommend compression stockings and prescription medications. In more serious cases, you may need surgery.
Your arteries carry blood from your heart out to the rest of your body. Your veins carry blood back to the heart, and valves in the veins stop the blood from flowing backward. When your veins have trouble sending blood from your limbs to the heart, it’s known as venous insufficiency. In this condition, blood doesn’t flow back properly to the heart, causing blood to pool in the veins in your legs.
Several factors can cause venous insufficiency, though it’s most commonly caused by blood clots (deep vein thrombosis) and varicose veins. Even if you have a family history of venous insufficiency, there are simple steps you can take to lower your chances of developing the condition.
Causes of Venous Insufficiency
Venous insufficiency is most often caused by either blood clots or varicose veins. In healthy veins, there is a continuous flow of blood from the limbs back toward the heart. Valves within the veins of the legs help prevent the backflow of blood.
The most common causes of venous insufficiency are previous cases of blood clots and varicose veins. When forward flow through the veins is obstructed — such as in the case of a blood clot — blood builds up below the clot, which can lead to venous insufficiency. In varicose veins, the valves are often missing or impaired and blood leaks back through the damaged valves. In some cases, weakness in the leg muscles that squeeze blood forward can also contribute to venous insufficiency.
Venous insufficiency is more common in women than in men. According to The University of Chicago Medical Center, it’s also more likely to occur in women between 40 and 49 and in men between 70 and 79. Other risk factors include:
- blood clots
- varicose veins
- muscle weakness, leg injury, or trauma
- swelling of a superficial vein (phlebitis)
- family history of venous insufficiency
- inactivity (sitting or standing for long periods of time without moving can cause high blood pressure in the leg veins and increase your risk)
Symptoms of Venous Insufficiency
- pain that gets worse when you stand and gets better when you raise your legs
- leg cramps
- aching, throbbing, or a feeling of heaviness in your legs
- itchy legs
- weak legs
- thickening of the skin on your legs or ankles
- skin that is changing color, especially around the ankles
- leg ulcers
- varicose veins
- a feeling of tightness in your calves