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Chronic Venous Insufficiency

A form of peripheral vein disease (PVD), chronic venous insufficiency occurs when valves in the leg veins become damaged or blocked. Normally, these veins carry oxygen-poor blood from the legs back to the heart, and the valves keep the blood flowing in the proper direction. When a vein valve malfunctions, blood can sometimes flow backward and pool in the legs.  

What Are the Risk Factors for Chronic Venous Insufficiency? 

Chronic venous insufficiency has been linked to: 

  • High blood pressure in the legs due to prolonged sitting 
  • Carrying excess body weight 
  • A sedentary lifestyle 
  • Smoking 
  • A blood clot in a deep vein in a thigh or calf (deep vein thrombosis) 
  • Inflammation of a vein close to the skin (phlebitis) 

What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Venous Insufficiency? 

The symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency can include: 

  • Swelling in the legs and ankles 
  • Tightness in the calves 
  • Leg pain while walking that resolves with rest 
  • Darkened skin, often near the ankles 
  • Varicose veins 
  • Leg sores that do not heal (ulcers) 
  • A constant urge to move the legs (restless legs syndrome) 
  • Painful leg cramps or muscle spasms (charley horse) 

How Is Chronic Venous Insufficiency Diagnosed? 

Typically, a physician will begin by reviewing the patient’s symptoms and medical history and performing a physical examination. As part of the diagnostic process, the physician may order a duplex ultrasound to evaluate the structure of the patient’s leg veins and the speed and direction of the blood flowing within them.  

How Is Chronic Venous Insufficiency Treated? 

Treatment can vary based on the severity of the symptoms and other factors. Some options include: 

  • Conservative measures to improve blood flow in the leg veins, such as elevating the legs and wearing compression stockings 
  • Medications to promote blood flow 
  • Endovenous laser ablation or radiofrequency ablation (RFA) to close off a damaged vein 
  • Sclerotherapy to create scar tissue within a damaged vein to prevent it from carrying blood  
  • Ligation surgery to tie off a damaged vein 
  • Vein stripping to remove a damaged vein 

Tampa General Hospital uses innovative methods to diagnose and treat all types of heart and vascular conditions, including chronic venous insufficiency. At our ultrasound vascular laboratory, we utilize leading-edge technologies to perform advanced diagnostic tests, such as peripheral venous testing. For our patients who elect surgical treatment, our team of vascular surgeons, interventional radiologists and other specialists perform a wide range of complex surgeries.