Venous Disease: What You Need to Know about Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI)
The venous disease known as chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) affects the veins of your body. CVI is common, according to the Society for Vascular Surgery, possibly affecting up to 40 percent of people living in the United States.
The phrase ‘venous insufficiency’ means some of the veins do not work as well as they should. Chronic venous insufficiency means the condition will cause problems for a long time.
CVI – A Chronic Venous Disease
Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Cells use this oxygen to perform various tasks. As they work, cells create waste, including carbon dioxide and other toxic byproducts. Blood carries these waste products away, clearing space for more oxygen.
Veins carry blood from your body cells back to your heart. Unlike arteries that get a little help from gravity to move blood downwards from your heart to your feet, your veins have to fight the force of gravity to carry it back upwards.
To help them keep blood moving in the right direction, veins have one-way valves that trap blood in small segments of the blood vessels in between heartbeats. These valves prevent gravity from pulling your blood downwards into your lower legs and feet.
In time, these valves can weaken and begin to function poorly. This allows blood to flow backwards and downwards, and eventually accumulate in your lower legs and feet. Blood pools in the veins in your lower extremities, causing pressure within those veins. Your body responds to the pressure by expanding the veins; bloated veins near the surface of your skin appear as bulging, twisted varicose veins.
The affected veins do a poor job of circulating blood. Instead of moving blood back up to the heart, the affected veins remain filled with oxygen-poor blood. In other words, the venous system becomes insufficient.
Malfunctioning valves are the most common cause of chronic venous insufficiency, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, but blood clots can also cause CVI. Certain risk factors can increase the likelihood that you will develop CVI, including:
- Age – the risk for CVI increases as you get older
- Family history of CVI
- Being female
- History of blood clots, also known as deep vein thrombosis, in your legs
- Sitting or standing for long periods
- Tall height
Vein doctors can diagnose and treat CVI. Diagnosis involves an examination of the veins in your legs and gathering a medical and family history, and may include a duplex ultrasound to evaluate your circulation. Treatment can include elevating your legs, regular exercise, wearing compression stockings, and undergoing medical treatments, such as VNUS Closure and EVLT.
If you think you have chronic venous insufficiency, make an appointment with your local vein doctor.