Venous insufficiency is a condition that can lead to problems such as pain, swelling, cramps, and varicose veins. The condition occurs when damaged leg veins don’t allow blood to flow back up to the heart. Although venous insufficiency is not considered a serious health threat, it can be painful, disabling, and have an impact on daily life. If you have venous insufficiency, there are things you can do to help the condition. Read on to learn more.
What Is Venous Insufficiency?
The role of the veins is to carry blood to the heart. There are valves inside veins to prevent the blood from flowing in the wrong direction. However, when the valves do not function properly, blood can also flow backwards, which can cause it to collect in the legs. When this happens, it is called venous insufficiency. The condition can cause symptoms including:
- Pain, which may only happen when walking and stop when resting
- Swelling in the legs or ankles
- Tightness, cramps, or muscle spasms in the legs
- Varicose veins
- Changes in the skin’s appearance (discoloration near the ankles, leathery texture)
- Leg ulcers (that may be hard to treat)
- Restless leg syndrome
Venous Insufficiency is more common in women than men, and there are different factors that can increase your risk of developing the condition, including:
- Being overweight or obese
- A lack of exercise, or sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time
- Having a family history of the condition
- If you are 50 or over
- A family history of venous insufficiency
- Injury or surgery on the leg
- An obstruction/blood clot in a vein
- Phlebitis (inflammation of a vein)
How To Treat Venous Insufficiency Successfully
If you have signs or symptoms of venous insufficiency or another venous disease, a vein specialist can diagnose your condition and recommend the appropriate treatment, which could vary according to the severity of the condition and other factors.
To identify venous insufficiency, the vein specialist will evaluate your medical history and carry out a physical exam to assess the blood flow in your legs. Imaging tests such as a duplex (vascular) ultrasound or venogram may also be required to examine blood circulation and the structure of the veins.
Upon diagnosis, the vein specialist will create a treatment plan based on a range of factors, including:
- Overall health
- Medical history
- Severity of the condition, and the likelihood of it getting worse
- Signs and symptoms
- Personal preferences
Sometimes, a combination of treatments may be recommended to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms, reduce blood pooling in the veins, and prevent leg ulcers from occurring.
Self-Care For Venous Insufficiency
Depending on the severity of the condition, sometimes, simple lifestyle changes may be all that is necessary to improve blood flow in your legs, such as:
- Not sitting down or standing in one position for prolonged periods (to help lower blood pressure in the leg veins).
- Exercising regularly to increase blood flow (walking can help strengthen the legs and improve blood circulation).
- Losing any excess weight.
- Elevating the legs (above the level of the heart) when sitting and lying down
- Wearing compression stockings to help increase circulation. The pressure of the compression stockings forces blood to circulate through narrower channels, which increases arterial pressure, causing more blood to return to the heart and less blood to pool at the feet.
- Practicing good skin hygiene to prevent infection.
- Taking vitamin and herbal supplements to help relieve symptoms associated with varicose veins. Vitamins C, B, and E and flavonoids are thought to help support circulation.
There are a variety of nonsurgical treatments that may be recommended to relieve symptoms and improve daily life, including:
- Medications – Depending on the cause of venous insufficiency, medications to increase blood flow through the vessels may be recommended. Antibiotics may be prescribed to clear a skin infection.
- Sclerotherapy – A procedure that involves injecting a problematic vein with a chemical called a sclerosant. It causes the vein to develop scar tissue, which prevents any further blood flow through it. It then collapses, shrinks, and is eventually resorbed by the body. Blood flow automatically reroutes through nearby healthy veins as soon as the targeted vein is sealed shut.
- Vein Ablation – To treat varicose veins, improve blood flow, and relieve the symptoms caused by blood pooling in the veins. A variety of safe, effective methods, such as laser therapy, sclerotherapy, radiofrequency ablation, or vein glue, are used to eliminate a problematic vein, allowing blood to automatically reroute through nearby healthy veins. By damaging the varicosed vein, scar tissue will develop and the vein will shut down, seal, and eventually be resorbed by the body.
Sometimes, surgery to repair, replace, or bypass damaged veins may be necessary for severe cases of venous insufficiency. There are a number of safe and effective surgical and minimally invasive procedures available.
- Vein stripping – A conventional surgical procedure to treat varicose veins and prevent blood flowing backwards. It involves making incisions at both ends of the varicose vein. The vein is then surgically tied off at either end and then removed (stripped).
- A phlebectomy procedure – Surgery that is typically used to remove big varicose veins that are located near the surface of the skin. A special solution is injected into the varicose vein to close it off and seal it. Then, using very small punctures, a portion of a varicose vein is removed using a small hook-like surgical instrument.
- Endoscopic vein surgery – Procedure for problematic varicose veins that may be causing leg ulcers. An endoscope (a small, flexible tube containing a tiny video camera and other instruments) is threaded into the vein through a small incision in the skin. Tiny surgical instruments are utilized to close the varicose vein.
Vein procedures to completely remove a problematic vein typically offer immediate results. However, some post-surgical swelling or bruising may occur. Recovery can take 2-4 weeks.
Comprehensive Vein Care in Tampa Bay, Fl
If you have symptoms of venous insufficiency, speak to the experts at Edward G. Mackay and Associates, LLC. We provide comprehensive and effective care for varicose veins, spider veins, and other venous diseases.
Our vascular surgeon, Dr. Edward G. Mackay, and his specially trained team offer the highest quality surgical and nonsurgical treatments customized for your unique needs at our fully accredited vascular testing facility.
To learn more about the services we offer or to schedule a consultation, call us at (727) 349-5652 or visit us at one of our three state-of-the-art locations in Tampa Bay. Alternatively, you can request an appointment online.