Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a common condition that occurs when the wall and/ or the valves of the veins in your legs do not work properly, making it difficult for blood to return efficiently from the legs back to the heart. Normally, the valves on the leg veins ensure that blood flows towards your heart in a one-way system but when they don’t work well, blood can also flow backwards and collect in the legs, causing venous stasis.
What causes varicose veins?
Both varicose veins’ causes and spider veins’ causes are unclear. Medical professionals do not yet fully understand why this exactly happens, but they do know that there are certain risk factors. Genetics, especially in women, play a role to some extent along with ageing and pregnancy. Vein issues, especially leg veins, are more common than you think and they can even affect people as young as 20!
Problems that affect the “muscle pump” efficiency of the calf muscles like osteoarthritis of the knee and poor mobility are associated with varicose veins. Working in certain professions that involve long periods of standing or sitting can also predispose you to varicose veins as they affect the veins on the legs.
The good news is that with the right treatment and care, varicose veins and their associated complications can be treated.
- Tired and painful legs
- Limb swelling, heaviness, colour changes in their lower leg especially brown pigmentation
- Dry skin and itch
- Bleeding, venous leg ulcers and blood clots
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are a manifestation of CVI and are abnormally dilated veins, which can be seen on the skin surface of the legs, ankles and feet, especially upon standing. They are blue or purple in colour, materializing as spider veins on legs, and can appear lumpy, twisted or bulging in nature
Other conditions associated with CVI include:
- Varicose eczema: Patches of skin become red, itchy and scaly. Varicose eczema usually occurs in the lower leg, ankle or over the affected vein.
- Lipodermatosclerosis: The skin above the varicose vein becomes fragile, appears pink or brown and feels tight and hard to the touch. Further injury to the area can result in a leg ulcer.
- Lymphoedema: Damage to the lymphatic system, causing swollen feet, ankles or toes.
- Dermatitis: An itchy, inflamed rash on the skin surface.
- Cellulitis: A serious skin infection that causes inflammation to the soft tissue of the skin.
Is An Evaluation Necessary?
An evaluation is necessary to determine the underlying cause of your varicose veins. Your history, an examination and an ultrasound scan are all used in determining the type and extent of treatment needed. An ultrasound is required to determine the extent of venous reflux (backflow of blood), the severity and the anatomy of your varicose veins, which can guide the vascular specialist to offer the best treatment for you.
- Varicose veins/ Chronic venous insufficiency
- Spider veins
- Venous leg ulcers
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Post thrombotic syndrome
- Swollen legs