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Signs Of Chronic Venous Insufficiency – What You Need To Know
If you’re among the 65 percent of Americans who experience chronic vein issues, know that what you’re experiencing is not normal. Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) in its most advanced stages can develop into deep vein thrombosis (DVT), an often fatal health complication. But before it reaches that point, there are warning signs to look for and ways to help prevent it before it’s too late.
What is CVI? It’s a condition in which varicose veins carry blood back up from the lower extremities to the heart — when these abnormal vessels dilate and enlarge due to pressure on their walls from gravity or weight gain, they become more likely to rupture and clot. This can lead to deep vein thrombosis, a condition in which a clot breaks off from the blood vessel and travels to the lungs, blocking blood flow.
“It’s like preparing the dinner table for your guests,” says Travell Johnson, MD, an interventional radiology physician at Medical City Dallas. “You want to have everything in place: water on the table, food in the fridge, and call setup. The same goes with veins.”
So why are they so important? According to Dr. Johnson, “The decrease of venous pressure in CVI is what can make it difficult for them to return the blood back into the heart. When the vessels get too big or dilate, this can cause blood to back up, leading to swelling in the lower extremities.”
In a normal leg vein, blood is able to return to the heart through venous valves. In CVI, however, these valves don’t work effectively which may lead to clots forming in the veins. These clots can break away and travel through your bloodstream where they lodge in your lungs (or other organs). This is called a pulmonary embolism (PE), which is a very serious and sometimes fatal condition. “It’s important for people to monitor their legs for any signs of pain or discomfort,” says Dr. Johnson.
Signs Of Chronic Venous Insufficiency – What are the signs of CVI?
Here are six signs to look for if you feel that you may have CVI.
Pain in your legs: Although not everyone with CVI will experience pain, it is a common sign of the condition. It’s usually felt in your calves or thighs and may be felt as a burning sensation, itching, or even cramping depending on where the clot is located. Many patients describe their leg pain as feeling like that of a charley horse. “If something doesn’t feel right, don’t ignore it,” says Dr. Johnson. “The more you work through the pain, it can become more permanent. You can’t work through it and not have it come back.”
Swelling in your legs: If you feel swelling in either the front or the back of your legs, you may want to look into CVI. “Fluid can accumulate in the leg veins and on top of that, there may be some bruising,” says Dr. Johnson. “When they swell, it can cause pain and discomfort.”
Dizziness: Not all people who experience dizziness have CVI. But if you are experiencing dizziness and a loss of balance while standing, climbing stairs, or walking up and down from the floor (or for no apparent reason), bring this to your doctor’s attention immediately to determine whether CVI is involved. “The pressure in the legs may be causing the dizziness,” explains Dr. Johnson. “Or sometimes, there is a clot in the leg and it can travel to the brain. If you’re feeling faint, you should call 911.”
Changes in your skin color: Because of pooling blood in your lower extremities, there are times when your veins may turn blue or purple and appear bruised. This could occur as a result of standing for long periods of time or wearing tight clothing, such as skinny jeans. “When standing for long periods of time, the blood backflows into the vein and may fill up with blood,” says Dr. Johnson. “It can make the skin look a lot darker and appear bruised. Some patients may see a dark circle around the blood pool as if a bruise is forming.”
Light-colored urine: Because varicose veins often appear blue or purple, many people assume that these vessels have become blocked. But there are other reasons why your urine may be dark in color or may have sediment. “Urine can be discolored (dark) due to the presence of undissolved blood,” explains Dr. Johnson. “If you’re experiencing this symptom and not sure what it is, bring this concern to your doctor’s attention.”
Edema: Sometimes the skin on your legs can become swollen. This swelling is known as edema. “Some patients may experience an increase in their leg size and muscle size,” says Dr. Johnson. “It’s usually due to the clots in the vein walls.”
Although these symptoms could be indicators of a problem, it’s important to remember that you may be experiencing them for no reason at all. A few things to keep in mind include:
Red or purple color: This doesn’t necessarily indicate CVI, but it may be due to the presence of a blood clot or other physical injury somewhere else on your body (such as on the skin).
Signs Of Chronic Venous Insufficiency – Final Thoughts On Chronic Venous Insufficiency
To start treating CVI injury, take the following steps:
Get to Know Your Legs: Knowing where the veins are located on your legs will help to pinpoint which veins may have become blocked and lead to CVI.
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s important to make an appointment with your primary care physician. Not only are these symptoms not normal, but you’ll want to prevent further complications and discomfort.
If CVI is diagnosed, Dr. Johnson recommends that you modify your lifestyle to treat it. This includes quitting smoking if you smoke and increasing your level of physical activity. “Avoid high-heel shoes,” he adds, “and wear loose clothing.” In addition to these moves, do what you can to minimize the swelling in your legs:
You should try wearing compression stockings all day long. These will help reduce swelling and increase blood flow back up toward the heart. You might not know what caused your CVI, but the condition can be treated. And the more you treat it, the sooner you can move on with your life. “If you have no symptoms or only mild ones, then treatment is usually not necessary,” says Dr. Johnson. “But if you are having a lot of pain and discomfort (which may last for weeks or months) then intervention may be needed.”