A Vein Doctor Explains Venous Insufficiency

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Individuals sometimes experience persistent throbbing or aching in a leg after an athletic or other injury.  When it is impossible to link any specific event to the discomfort, a vein doctor is likely to consider whether the patient has a condition known as venous insufficiency, also called chronic venous insufficiency or venous reflux.

Exactly What is Venous Insufficiency?

This disorder is most likely to occur in the legs.  The role of leg veins is carrying blood from extremities and internal organs to the heart.

One crucial aspect of vein anatomy is the presence of one-way valves in these vessels.  As blood defies gravity and travels upward, vein valves close to prevent it from leaking backward.  However, when a valve malfunctions or becomes damaged, it cannot close completely.  This causes blood to fall back into the vessel and pool, particularly when a person is in a standing position, MedlinePlus notes.

As blood pools in a vein, it stretches the walls of the vessel, causing them to expand.  The eventual result could be venous insufficiency, which might eventually become chronic, and the development of varicose or spider veins.  Although far less common, an earlier blood clot in the leg can also cause insufficiency.

Since symptoms of this disorder often mimic those of other health conditions, many patients do not suspect that they suffer from the correct vascular problem.  According to The University of Chicago Medicine, common symptoms include:

  • Swelling in the limbs, particularly in the legs or ankles
  • A tight feeling in the calves
  • Itching and pain in the legs
  • Pain that occurs during walking but ends when at rest
  • Brownish skin, particularly around ankles
  • Varicose veins
  • Ulcers in the leg that might be difficult to treat
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • “Charley horse” sensations

Chronic venous insufficiency strikes around 40 percent of Americans, the Cleveland Clinic reports.  Major risk factors include:

  • A family history of varicose veins
  • Being obese
  • A deep vein thrombosis
  • Being pregnant
  • Smoking
  • Prolonged sitting or standing
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Being female
  • Being more than 50 years old

How a Vein Doctor Treats This Condition

Vascular specialists are able to offer multiple therapies.  A recommendation takes into consideration the cause of the problem, general health, and patient preference.  The University of Chicago Medicine cites these options:

  • Enhancing circulation in the legs.  Treatment might include wearing compression stockings, elevating the legs, shedding excess weight, becoming more physically active, avoiding crossing the legs, and refraining from prolonged sitting or standing.
  • Medications.  While some boost blood flow, others help leg ulcers to heal.
  • Sclerotherapy.  Injecting a special chemical eliminates damaged vessels.
  • Laser therapy and radiofrequency ablation.  Each uses heat to close veins and improve blood flow.
  • Surgery.  Physicians reserve its use for patients with severe disorders.  Alternatives include ligation to tie off a targeted vein and removal of affected vessels.