Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) is a medical condition in which the valves in the veins of the lower body do not properly channel blood flow back to the heart because of blockage or venous valve malfunction, resulting in slow blood flow, increased pressure and swelling in the legs and feet.
CVI is caused by long-term blood pressure that is higher than normal inside your leg veins. Phlebitis and deep vein thrombosis might lead to CVI. Factors that can increase your risk of CVI include:
- Family history of varicose veins
- Being overweight
- Being pregnant
- Not enough exercise
- Standing or sitting for long periods of time
- Women over 50 years old have a higher risk of developing CVI
The symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency are:
- Persistent swelling of the lower legs
- Leg pain, dull aching, heaviness or cramping
- Bluish discoloration of the skin at the ankles
With prolonged swelling, venous ulcers can develop at the ankles and these often become infected.
Treatment & Prevention
Chronic venous insufficiency requires use of well-fitted, elastic compression stockings whenever the patient is out of bed. Relapses often occur when the patient is doing well and mistakenly believes this important routine can be discontinued. If the stockings are not worn, this can result in increased ankle swelling, discoloration, and eventual breakdown of the skin leading to an ulcer.
Treatment of these ulcers requires a special dressing impregnated with medication to promote healing. It is applied from toes to knee and wrapped securely with an elastic bandage. Bed rest with leg elevation is also required (often for many weeks) to achieve healing.
When an ulcer persists despite treatment, surgical removal of the ulcer may be necessary, or veins connecting to the ulcer may have to be tied off to reduce swelling and pressure in the area. Lifelong wearing of elastic compression stockings is absolutely required for a varicose ulcer to remain healed.
There are several ways to try to prevent CVI:
- Maintain a normal weight
- Exercise regularly
- Do not smoke
- Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time
Chronic Venous Insuffiencey Educational Flyer
National Institutes of Health