Your arteries carry blood from your heart out to the rest of your body. Your veins carry blood back to the heart, and valves in the veins stop the blood from flowing back. When your veins have trouble sending blood from your limbs back to the heart, it is called venous insufficiency (VI). In this condition, blood does not flow back properly to the heart, causing blood to pool in your legs.
Several factors can cause VI, though most commonly its caused by blood clots (deep vein thrombosis) and varicose veins.
Symptoms include pain, swelling, and ulcers of the legs. Treatment options depend on the cause, but include prescription medications and surgery.
Even for if you have a family history of venous insufficiency, there are simple steps you can take to lessen your chances of developing the condition.
Most often, the condition is a result of blood clots or varicose veins. In varicose veins, the valves are often missing or impaired.)
VI is more common in women than in men. According to The University of Chicago Medical Center, it is also more likely to occur in women between 40 and 49 and men between 70 and 79 (UCM). Other risk factors include:
Symptoms of VI can include:
To determine if you have this condition, your doctor will want to perform a physical examination and take a complete medical history. He or she 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. This dye will provide your doctor with a clearer X-ray picture of your blood vessels.
A duplex ultrasound is a vascular ultrasound procedure that can assess the structure of the leg veins and the flow of blood.
Treatment will depend on many factors, including the reason for the condition and your particular health status and history. Other factors your doctor will consider are:
Treatment for VI can include:
To improve blood flow:
There are also a number of medications that may help those suffering from this condition. These include:
Sometimes more serious cases of VI require surgery. Your doctor may suggest one of the following surgery types:
This treatment method is generally reserved for advanced VI. In sclerotherapy, a chemical is injected into the damaged vein so that it is 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.
If you have a family history of VI, there are steps you can take to lessen your chances of developing the condition. Some steps everyone should take are:
When there is an abnormality in the blood drainage from the brain and spinal cord, it is called chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI). In 2009, Dr. Paolo Zamboni, of the University of Ferrara in Italy, theorized that CCSVI may be a factor in developing multiple sclerosis (MS), and that surgical treatment for CCSVI may be effective in treating MS (National MS Society).
Research on CCSVI and the possible connection to MS is ongoing.