The veins in our lower body are tasked with carrying our blood to our hearts. Our valves and veins stop the blood from flowing backward and pooling. When the veins and valves are not working properly, it is called venous insufficiency. The most common causes of venous insufficiency are varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis and spider veins.
What are the symptoms of venous insufficiency?
For varicose veins, the valves are often missing or not working correctly, causing blood and fluid to leak back through the damaged valves. The pressure can cause the veins to become inflamed, which can cause swelling and pain.
Symptoms of venous insufficiency include:
- Swelling in legs or ankles
- Pain that gets worse when you stand and gets better when you elevate your legs
- Leg cramps or charley horse
- Feeling of heaviness in your legs
- Itchy legs
- Weak legs
- Leg ulcers
Other symptoms can include varicose veins, restless leg syndrome, and brown-colored skin near the ankles.
How is venous insufficiency diagnosed?
Venous insufficiency requires a medical diagnosis from a vascular surgeon. In addition to asking questions about your medical history and current and former symptoms, your physician will often perform a physical exam. A vascular surgeon may also use a special ultrasound on the lower body called a Duplex ultrasound, which examines the way blood flows through your arteries and veins, to confirm a venous insufficiency diagnosis.
How is venous insufficiency treated?
Once venous insufficiency has been diagnosed, medical management treatment options include compression stockings, elevations, and pneumatic pumps. Treatment therapy options can include endovenous laser treatment, stab phlebectomy and sclerotherapy of spider/reticular veins. Endovenous laser treatment is a minimally invasive treatment option in which a small optic fiber is inserted in order to heat and close abnormal veins. The body is then able to re-reroute blood flow through normal, healthy veins.
Treatment for venous insufficiency is often covered by insurance. At Ochsner, we also provide low-cost sclerotherapy, injecting a solution directly into the vein, for patients whose insurance does not cover it.
As with most vascular and cardiovascular health conditions, adopting healthy lifestyle habits like eating well, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent complications from venous insufficiency.
Editors note: This article was originally published on Nov 6, 2019.
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