Venous Insufficiency

What is Venous Insufficiency?

Venous insufficiency is a problem with the flow of blood from the veins of the legs back to the heart. It’s also called chronic venous insufficiency or chronic venous stasis.

Veins have valves that keep the blood moving in one direction-toward the heart. In venous insufficiency, the valves in the veins of the leg don’t work right. So fluid pools in the legs. This can lead to problems that include varicose veins.

What causes venous insufficiency?

Venous insufficiency is sometimes caused by deep vein thrombosis and high blood pressure inside leg veins.

Risk factors for venous insufficiency include:

  • Age
  • Family history of this condition
  • Female gender (related to levels of the hormone progesterone)
  • History of deep vein thrombosisin the legs
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Inactivity (Sitting or standing for long periods)
  • Swelling of a superficial vein (phlebitis)
  • Muscle weakness, leg injury or trauma
  • Tall height
  • Smoking

Symptoms of venous insufficiency

The symptoms of venous insufficiency affect the legs and include:

  • Swelling of the legs or ankles (edema)
  • Pain that gets worse when you stand and gets better when you raise your legs
  • Leg cramps
  • Aching, throbbing, or a feeling of heaviness in your legs
  • Itchy and tingly legs
  • Weak legs
  • Thickening and hardening of the skin on your legs or ankles
  • Skin that is changing color, especially around the ankles
  • Irritated or cracked skin when you scratch it
  • Wounds or ulcers that are slow to heal on the legs or ankles
  • Varicose veins
  • A feeling of tightness in your calves

How is venous insufficiency diagnosed?

Your doctor can diagnose venous insufficiency by examining your legs and by using a Duplex Ultrasound to test the speed and direction of blood flow in the veins.

He may also use a Venogram, during which your doctor will put a contrast dye into your veins that causes your blood vessels to appear opaque on an X-ray, thus allowing your doctor to see a clearer picture of the blood vessels.

Treatment for venous insufficiency

The most common treatment for venous insufficiency is prescription compression stockings that apply pressure at the ankle and lower leg. They help improve blood flow and can reduce leg swelling. However, treatment for venous insufficiency depends on many factors including:

  • Cause of your condition.
  • Specific symptoms.
  • Severity of your condition.
  • Tolerance for medications and procedures.

Depending on these factors, treatment can include different strategies.

Improve blood flow

  • Wear compression stockings.
  • Exercise regularly
  • Do not it or stand for long periods.
  • Do not cross your legs when seated.
  • Keep your legs elevated when possible.


Some of the medications that may help with this condition are:

  • Diuretics that draw extra fluid from your body.
  • Trental (Pentoxifylline). A medication to improve blood flow.
  • Anticoagulants (blood-thinners).

Your doctor may recommend more invasive treatments depending on the severity of your symptoms. These procedures include:

  • Sclerotherapy. Salt water (saline) or a chemical solution is injected into the vein. The vein hardens and is eventually absorbed into the body.
  • Small surgical cuts (incisions) are made in the leg near the damaged vein. The vein is removed through one of the incisions.
  • Procedures that can be done in a provider’s office or clinic, such as using a laser or radiofrequency.
  • Varicose vein stripping, used to remove or tie off a large vein in the leg called the superficial saphenous vein.

What can you do to prevent venous insufficiency?

If there is a history of venous insufficiency in your family, you may lessen your chances of developing the condition by following these steps:

  • Avoid sitting or standing in one position for a long time; stand up and move around frequently.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.

Chronic venous insufficiency tends to get worse over time. However, it can be managed if treatment is started in the earl