What Is Chronic Venous Insufficiency?

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t give your veins much thought. As long as they’re doing their job, you take an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to vein care. But what happens when they get sluggish and slow down? Or worse, they stop doing their job altogether?

This is called chronic venous insufficiency, and it affects about 40% of American adults. If you’re one of them, we’d love to help you understand it and get treatment here at Louisiana Cardiovascular and Thoracic Institute in Alexandria, Louisiana. 

As a board-certified cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon, I have a lot of experience treating all types of vein issues, but I never assume one case is the same as the next. I believe it’s important to get to know your unique health history and current symptoms, so I spend time discussing your condition with you and helping you understand exactly what’s going on so you can be an informed part of your own health care team.

Understanding chronic venous insufficiency

To understand chronic venous insufficiency, you first have to understand how your veins work. As I mentioned, veins are responsible for carrying blood back to your heart after it’s made a trip around your body delivering oxygen and nutrients. 

Your arteries have a relatively easy job: your heart beats and adds momentum as the blood travels out to your body parts — and it’s all downhill. But your veins don’t have the advantage of that extra “push.” Plus, they have to carry the blood uphill, against gravity, to return blood to your heart. 

Fortunately, the muscles in your feet and legs contract and help push the blood upward, and your veins have tiny one-way valves that prevent it from flowing backward. It’s a pretty ingenious design, but it’s not infallible. 

If your vein walls become damaged or the valves malfunction, the blood flow slows down and you have chronic venous insufficiency. 

How did you get chronic venous insufficiency?

The reason it’s critical to come in and see us for chronic venous insufficiency is that the underlying cause may be a serious condition that needs treatment right away. 

One of the most common causes of chronic venous insufficiency is a disease called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which creates blood clots in your legs. Chronic venous insufficiency can also be the result of a pelvic tumor or a deformation of your veins.

While some causes of chronic venous insufficiency are out of your control, such as your family medical history or having cancer or blood clots, there are some things you may be doing that put you at risk, and you have the power to change them. 

For instance, if you sit every day and don’t move around enough, or you stand for long periods of time at your job, you have a higher chance of getting chronic venous insufficiency. Being overweight, obese, or pregnant can also lead to chronic venous insufficiency, as can smoking. 

What chronic venous insufficiency looks and feels like

The first question my patients ask me is: how do I know it’s chronic venous insufficiency and is it serious?

The answer to the first question is that we take into account all of your symptoms, your personal and family health history, your weight, and lifestyle, and of course we run tests to detect blockages and clots. 

The answer to the second question is: sometimes. During the early stage of chronic venous insufficiency, you’ll notice mild symptoms, such as:

As the disease progresses, your symptoms get worse:

I know that sounds terrifying, but the good news is that we can help you by treating your veins and restoring their health.

What can be done for chronic venous insufficiency

The goal with chronic venous insufficiency is to get your blood moving freely and in the right direction again. So, we take a look at your daily routine and get you moving more. If weight is an issue, we talk about ways to shed a few pounds. 

Compression stockings also do wonders by applying pressure that helps the blood flow up, and elevating your legs when possible is another at-home trick that works well. 

If and when it becomes clear that you need more aggressive intervention, I perform one of several surgical procedures to repair your veins, remove blood clots, or redirect your blood flow to healthier veins. 

But I use minimally invasive techniques such as endovenous laser therapy, using ultrasound technology to guide a very narrow catheter into your veins. You’ll be comfortable and pain-free throughout the entire procedure. 

If you have any of the symptoms we mentioned, you may have chronic venous insufficiency. Why wait and wonder? Call us at 318-383-3160 or request an appointment by using our convenient online scheduling tool. Our friendly staff is here to help, and I look forward to meeting you.

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