WellSpan Home

Health Library

Chronic Venous Insufficiency

What is chronic venous insufficiency?

Illustration of the anatomy of a vein, showing valves

Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when your leg veins don’t allow blood to flow back up to your heart. Normally, the valves in your veins make sure that blood flows toward your heart. But when these valves don’t work well, blood can also flow backwards. This can cause blood to collect (pool) in your legs.

If this condition is not treated, you may have:

  • Pain

  • Swelling

  • Cramps

  • Skin changes

  • Varicose veins

  • Leg ulcers

Chronic venous insufficiency is not a serious health threat. But it can be painful and disabling.

What causes chronic venous insufficiency?

You are more likely to have this condition if you:

  • Are overweight

  • Are pregnant

  • Have a family history of the problem

  • Had damage to your leg due to injury, surgery, or previous blood clots

Illustration of the circulation system of the legs

Other causes of chronic venous insufficiency include:

  • High blood pressure in the leg veins over time, due to sitting or standing for long periods

  • Lack of exercise

  • Smoking

  • A blood clot in a deep vein, often in the calf or thigh (deep vein thrombosis)

  • Swelling and inflammation of a vein close to the skin, often in the legs (phlebitis)

What are the symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency?

Symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency may include:

  • Swelling in your legs or ankles

  • Tight feeling in your calves or itchy, painful legs

  • Pain when walking that stops when you rest

  • Brown-colored skin, often near the ankles

  • Varicose veins

  • Leg ulcers that are sometimes hard to treat

  • Having an uncomfortable feeling in your legs and an urge to move your legs (restless legs syndrome)

  • Painful leg cramps or muscle spasms (charley horse)

The symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency may seem like other health conditions. Talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is chronic venous insufficiency diagnosed?

Your provider will take your medical history and give you an exam. You may also have an imaging test called a Duplex ultrasound. This looks at blood flow and the structure of your leg veins. It checks the speed and direction of blood flow in the blood vessel.

What is the treatment for chronic venous insufficiency?

Your healthcare provider will create a treatment plan for you based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • How serious your case is

  • How well you handle certain medicines, treatments, or therapies

  • Your signs and symptoms

  • If your condition is expected to get worse

  • What you would like to do

Treatment may include:

  • Improving blood flow in your leg veins. Keeping your legs raised (elevated) can reduce swelling and help increase blood flow. Wearing compression stockings may also help. Regular exercise can also improve blood flow.

  • Medicines. Medicines that increase blood flow through the vessels may be used along with compression therapy to help heal leg ulcers. Aspirin can also be used to help ulcers heal. Medicines that draw excess fluid from the body through the kidneys (diuretics) are not often used. But they may be used if other conditions such as heart failure or kidney disease are also linked to the swelling.

  • Endovenous laser ablation or radiofrequency ablation (RFA). This is a minimally invasive procedure. A tube (catheter) puts heat right into the affected vein. This closes the vein. Once the vein is closed, less blood pools in the leg. Overall blood flow is improved.

  • Sclerotherapy. This may be used if your case is more serious. A chemical is injected into the affected veins. The chemical causes scarring in the veins so that they can no longer carry blood. Blood then returns to the heart through other veins. The body absorbs the scarred veins.

  • Surgery. This is done in severe cases. Ligation is a type of surgery that may be used.  The affected vein is tied off so that blood no longer flows through it. If the vein or its valves are heavily damaged, the vein will be removed. This is called vein stripping.

Chronic Venous Insufficiency - WellSpan Health

Author: Julie Garner
Online Medical Reviewer: Sudheendra, Deepak, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
Last Review Date: 2016-06-01T00:00:00
Last Modified Date: 2016-06-15T00:00:00
Posting Date: 2008-11-30T00:00:00
Published Date: 2016-06-15T00:00:00
Last Review Date: 2007-03-30T00:00:00
© 2016 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

I would like to:

Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×

Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.

×