Symptoms of Chronic Venous Insufficiency

posted in: Varicose Veins

Chronic venous insufficiency can happen to anyone, regardless of age, it’s important to know what the condition is, how to avoid it and what your treatment options are.

Symptoms of Chronic Venous Insufficiency - Vein Solutions

What is venous insufficiency?

A venous insufficiency is when a person’s veins has difficulty sending the blood from their limbs back to their heart. With this condition, the blood doesn’t properly flow back to the heart, which causes the blood to pool in the veins in their legs. There are several factors that can cause venous insufficiency including varicose veins and blood clots.

Even if venous insufficiency runs in your family, there are precautions you can take to lower the risk of developing.

Causes of Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Two of the most common causes of this condition are varicose veins and blood clots. Healthy veins have a continuous flow of blood from a person’s limbs and back towards the heart. The valves that are within the veins of the legs helps prevent backflow.

If a patient has varicose veins, the valves are either impaired or missing, which makes the blood leak through. In rare cases, blood may be squeezed forward by the weakness in the leg muscles, which can cause venous insufficiency. On a side note, venous insufficiency is more common in females than males. It’s also more prevalent is people who are over the age of 50.

There are other risk factors that can cause venous insufficiency:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Cancer
  • Pregnancy
  • Muscle weakness
  • Leg trauma
  • Phlebitis, which is the swelling of a superficial vein
  • Standing or sitting for long periods of time
  • Leg trauma

In addition, your family history is equally important. It’s not uncommon for more than one family member to suffer from the condition.

Symptoms of Venous Insufficiency

Compared to other vein-related conditions, venous insufficiency has a lot of symptoms to look out for.

Aside from spider and varicose veins, here’s what symptoms you should look for:

  • Edema, which is when a person’s ankles or legs swell
  • Pain that worsens when standing and disappears as the legs are raised
  • Constant leg cramps
  • Aching
  • Throbbing
  • A heavy feeling in the legs
  • Itchiness
  • Weakness in the legs
  • The skin on the legs or ankles becomes thicker
  • Skin discoloration
  • Venous leg ulcers
  • A tight feeling in your calves

If you feel three or more of these symptoms, go see a vascular specialist immediately. Waiting until something horrific happens is never a good thing.


Of course, as with any conditions, there are multiple ways to diagnose venous insufficiency. For instance, the doctor may want to have a physical examination and have a full medical history. In some cases, they might order imaging tests so they can pinpoint the source.

The two imaging tests that are used include:

  • Venogram – During this test, the doctor applies an intravenous (IV) contrast dye in the veins. This dye is what makes the blood vessels to opaque on the x-ray, which allows the doctor to properly see them.
  • Duplex ultrasound – This type of imaging test is used to test the direction and speed of the blood flow within the veins. Similar to an EKG, a trained nurse or technician will apply a special type of gel on the skin and press a small device known as a transducer against the area. The transducer will produce sound waves that bounce back onto the screen to give a clear image of the blood flow.

Lifestyle Changes

In addition to surgical intervention, there may be things you can do to prevent the development or recurrence of chronic venous insufficiency.

Compression Garments

Compression garments are elastic compression stockings or socks made with a flexible, gradated fabric. When worn, compression garments apply pressure to your legs and feet to keep your blood moving properly.

Maintain Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight may also help to reduce chronic venous insufficiency. Proper diet and regular exercise can help ward off obesity.

Increase Activity

Unless instructed otherwise, increased activity is also effective in preventing venous insufficiency. Sedentary lifestyles are proven to cause a host of preventable diseases.

Leg Elevation

Sitting and standing for prolonged periods contributes to pooling of blood. Even when sitting, you can do things to prevent venous insufficiency. Intermittently stand and walk for at least 5 minutes every hour. In addition, when sitting, avoid crossing your legs and keep them elevated on a foot stool.

Avoid Salt

Consuming excessive amounts of sodium does more than raise your blood pressure. It also causes you to retain water. In turn, excess fluid in the legs can cause swelling and put pressure on leg veins.

Final Thoughts

Chronic venous insufficiency is very common condition in which your blood doesn’t flow freely through your veins returning to your heart. Most often, it’s due to faulty valves within the veins. Although usually chronic, it is not life-threatening. However, when left untreated, it can cause a variety of other issues like leg heaviness, dermatitis and venous ulcerations.

Chronic venous insufficiency isn’t always preventable, however, it is treatable. If you develop signs and symptoms of venous insufficiency, it’s important to seek medical treatment.


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