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Your arteries carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Your veins carry blood back to the heart, and valves in the veins stop the blood from flowing backward. When your veins have trouble sending blood from your limbs back to the heart, it’s known as venous insufficiency. In this condition, blood doesn’t flow back properly to the heart, causing blood to pool in the veins in your legs.
Several factors can cause venous insufficiency, though it’s most commonly caused by blood clots (deep vein thrombosis) and varicose veins. Even if you have a family history of venous insufficiency, there are simple steps you can take to lower your chances of developing the condition.
Venous insufficiency is most often caused by either blood clots or varicose veins. In healthy veins, there is a continuous flow of blood from the limbs back toward the heart. Valves within the veins of the legs help prevent the backflow of blood.
The most common causes of venous insufficiency are previous cases of blood clots and varicose veins. When forward flow through the veins is obstructed — such as in the case of a blood clot — blood builds up below the clot, which can lead to venous insufficiency. In varicose veins, the valves are often missing or impaired and blood leaks back through the damaged valves. In some cases, weakness in the leg muscles that squeeze blood forward can also contribute to venous insufficiency.
Venous insufficiency is more common in women than in men. According to The University of Chicago Medical Center, it’s also more likely to occur in women between 40 and 49 and in men between 70 and 79. Other risk factors include:
Symptoms of venous insufficiency include:
Your doctor will want to do a physical examination and take a complete medical history to figure out if you have venous insufficiency. They may also order some imaging tests to pinpoint the source of the problem. These tests may include a venogram or a duplex ultrasound.
During a venogram, your doctor will put an intravenous (IV) contrast dye into your veins. Contrast dye causes the blood vessels to appear opaque on the X-ray image, which helps the doctor see them on the image. This dye will provide your doctor with a clearer X-ray picture of your blood vessels.
A type of test called a duplex ultrasound may be used to test the speed and direction of blood flow in the veins. A technician will place some gel on the skin and then press a small hand-held device (transducer) against your skin. The transducer uses sound waves that bounce back to a computer and produce the images of blood flow.
Treatment will depend on many factors, including the reason for the condition and your health status and history. Other factors your doctor will consider are:
The most common treatment for venous insufficiency is prescription compression stockings. These special elastic stockings apply pressure at the ankle and lower leg. They help improve blood flow and can reduce leg swelling. Compression stockings come in a range of prescription strengths and different lengths. Your doctor will help you decide what the best type of compression stocking is for your treatment.
Treatment for venous insufficiency can include several different strategies:
Some tips to improve your blood flow include:
There are also a number of medications that may help those suffering from this condition. These include:
Sometimes more serious cases of venous insufficiency require surgery. Your doctor may suggest one of the following surgery types:
This outpatient procedure (you won’t have to spend the night in the hospital) involves your doctor numbing certain spots on your leg, and then making small pricks and removing smaller varicose veins.
This treatment method is generally reserved for advanced venous insufficiency. In sclerotherapy, a chemical is injected into the damaged vein so that it’s no longer able to carry blood. Blood will return to the heart through other veins, and the damaged vein will eventually be absorbed by the body. Sclerotherapy is used to destroy small to medium veins. A chemical is injected into the damaged vein so that it’s no longer able to carry blood.
In severe cases, your doctor can use a catheter procedure for larger veins. They’ll insert a catheter (a thin tube) into the vein, heat the end of it, and then remove it. The heat will cause the vein to close and seal as the catheter is taken out.
If you have a family history of venous insufficiency, there are steps you can take to lessen your chances of developing the condition:
Written by: the Healthline Editorial Teamon: Aug 15, 2017
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