The numbers surrounding chronic venous insufficiency (CVI)—a name given to diseases like varicose, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) as well as other disorders of blood circulation in the legs—underscore that this condition doesn’t get the attention it deserves. In fact, no less than 25 million Americans suffer with varicose veins, with an additional six million experiencing more advanced conditions.  Clearly this is something that warrants taking a closer look.
CVI typically presents as a pooling of excess blood in the legs due to an inability of the circulatory system to get it back to the heart. What makes it a bit of a challenge to take on is that this condition has a range of manifestations and causes. No matter the severity or intensity of the case, it’s essential that patients are able to identify and understand the problem.
Signs & Symptoms
So how can you tell you have CVI? Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the most common signs of this condition: 
- Lower leg and ankle swelling.
- Aching in the legs.
- Tired or “heavy” legs.
- Varicose veins.
- Leathery appearance of skin on the legs.
- Itching skin on the legs.
- Stasis ulcers (ulcers forming at the area of poor circulation).
What makes CVI tricky is that these symptoms are also present in other conditions. Diagnosis involves a consideration of tests as well as full patient history. That said, while symptoms in themselves may be tolerable, this is a progressive condition and treatment is paramount. Advanced cases lead to rupture of capillaries (the tiniest veins closest to the surface of the skin), which makes legs brownish in color and sensitive to touch and pressure. 
Who’s At Risk?
While CVI can strike anyone, certain populations and those that partake in certain behaviors are certainly at risk. Knowing this kind of information helps doctors with treatment and allows patients to get a better sense of their own condition. Some risk-factors will be largely out of the patient’s control, so let’s first take a look at those:
- Family History: There’s a genetic component to CVI as well as some of the conditions that are associated with it, so family history can be a predictor.
- Pregnancy: In the same way that pregnant women are more likely to develop varicose veins, CVI can accompany term.
- Menopause: The hormonal changes associated with menopause can also be implicated.
- Obesity: Excessive weight defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more (about 30 lbs. overweight) places strain on the body’s circulation and may manifest as CVI.
- Leg Trauma: Previous injury, surgery, or blood clots can also cause disorders in circulation.
- High Blood Pressure: Also known as hypertension, this leads to numerous dangerous health effects among which is CVI.
- Deep Vein Thrombosis: A blood clot in one of the deeper, more vital veins.
In addition, a number of behaviors and habits may lead to or exacerbate this condition:
- Prolonged Inactivity: Sitting or standing for long periods of time can lead to CVI.
- Lack of Exercise: When you work out, you promote better heart health and circulation. Not getting enough activity will contribute to the condition.
- Smoking: There are a myriad of dangers to smoking tobacco. Given the negative impact of this habit on the heart, it’s no surprise that circulation disorders like this one crop up more often in smokers.
Largely, your typical patient for this condition is over the age of 50 and more often than not, female.  Still, other population groups are not immune.
When Should I Get Help?
Cases of CVI vary in intensity, and, as seen above, there are many different causes for it.
Despite its prevalence, the good news is that there are numerous treatment options. These vary from non-surgical techniques like wearing compression stockings, minimally-invasive procedures like sclerotherapy, up to and including ligation or other surgical approaches. 
But when should you speak up? Quite simply, if you’re experiencing any of the above-listed symptoms, you’re best off seeking out medical treatment as soon as possible. This is the kind of health issue that will not resolve itself on its own and is bound to become more uncomfortable and unbearable. The quicker you’re able to get expert eyes on the condition, the easier and more manageable the treatment will be. No one needs to suffer in silence.
If you suspect you have CVI or another vein-related disorder, the team at Hamilton Vein Center is ready to help. These Texas-based experts specialize in offering effective, minimally-invasive treatments for a wide range of conditions. Learn more about what they do by calling their Houston office at (281) 565-0033; the Austin branch at (512) 551-1403; or San Antonio at (210) 504-4304 today!
- Eberhardt, R. T., and J. D. Raffetto. 2014. “Chronic Venous Insufficiency”. Circulation130 (4): 333-346. Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer Health). doi:10.1161/circulationaha.113.006898.
- “What Is Chronic Venous Insufficiency?”. 2018. Org. Accessed February 23 2018. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthli