Chronic Venous Insufficiency: Causes, Symptoms and Relief


Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) usually occurs in the veins of the legs and is caused by damaged valves within the veins, resulting in a deficiency of blood being pumped back to the heart. There are a number of possible causes of CVI, such as DVT (deep vein thrombosis)and phlebitis and in some instances it is a congenital defect. Other contributary factors include a lack of exercise, obesity, pregnancy and smoking and CVI is occurs most frequently in women over 50 years of age.


The most common symptoms of CVI are itching, swelling (particularly in the ankles),redness and heavy, tired legs. There is also an increased risk of ulcers, eczema and other skin problems. The condition is often linked with the presence of varicose veins and a medical history forms a key part of diagnosis of CVI. A doctor will also carry out a physical examination, possibly in conjuction with blood pressure tests, ultrasound or x-rays.


For mild cases of CVI compression stockings are recommended as they can improve blood flow in the veins and allow sores and other skin complaints to heal. The stockings can also provide relief from any associated discomfort. Losing weight is also recommended if obesity is an issue as this can help relieve pressure on the legs.


In the case of more serious CVI there are various surgical options available, including scleropathy, ablation and vein stripping. Scleropathy involves the injection of chemicals into the veins to scar them, eventually leading to blood flow diverting to healthy veins. Ablation follows a similar theme, using heat via electrodes to destroy the tissue of varicose veins. Vein stripping sees affected veins being tied off and any damaged sections removed. Interestingly, leech therapy (which has seen something of a comeback in recent years) can also be beneficial for treating chronic venous insufficiency.