What is Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI)?
Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a condition that occurs when the venous wall and/or valves in the leg veins are not working effectively, making it difficult for blood to return to the heart from the legs. Veins return blood to the heart from all the body’s organs. To reach the heart, the blood needs to flow upward from the veins in the legs. Calf muscles and the muscles in the feet need to contract with each step to squeeze the veins and push the blood upward. To keep the blood flowing up, and not back down, the veins contain one-way valves.
Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when these valves become damaged, allowing the blood to leak backward. Valve damage may occur as the result of aging, extended sitting or standing or a combination of aging and reduced mobility. When the veins and valves are weakened to the point where it is difficult for the blood to flow up to the heart, blood pressure in the veins stays elevated for long periods of time, leading to CVI.
CVI most commonly occurs as the result of a blood clot in the deep veins of the legs, a disease known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). As many as 30 percent of people with DVT will develop this problem within 10 years after diagnosis.
Swelling in the lower legs and ankles Aching or tiredness in the legs New varicose veins Leathery-looking skin on the legs Flaking or itching skin on the legs or feet Stasis ulcers (or venous stasis ulcers)
If CVI is not treated, the pressure and swelling increase until blood vessels burst. At the least, burst capillaries can cause local tissue inflammation. At worst, open sores appear that are difficult to heal & can become infected. CVI severity increases as it progresses. That’s why it is very important to see your doctor if you have any of the symptoms of CVI. The problem will not go away if you wait, and the earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the better your chances of preventing serious complications.