What is Venous Insufficiency?

The veins of your body work to return blood back to your heart. Veins have small valves in them that open and close to allow blood to pass in only one direction. Without this valve system, your body would not be able to return blood to your heart efficiently. Venous insufficiency is a condition in which the valves in your veins do not close properly. When the veins do not close properly, the blood flows backwards and pools in the lower veins.

What are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins affect your appearance, and, in some cases, varicose veins can be painful. Varicose veins are enlarged, “ropey” veins just beneath the skin, of the thighs and legs. They are the result of venous insufficiency, when the one-way valves in the veins are diseased and allow blood to pool in the legs.  As the blood pools, the veins swell, and enlarge to become varicose veins.  Spider veins are similar to varicose veins but are smaller and even closer to the surface of the skin. They can also occur in places on the body other than the legs. Varicose and spider veins are indicators of possible, deeper disease in the veins of the thighs and legs.

Who is at Risk for Varicose Veins?

Approximately 3% (180,000) of people in the Houston Metro Area suffer from symptomatic venous disease. Approximately 40% of the US population has some form of venous insufficiency – that is 2.4 Million people in Houston!

You may be at risk for varicose veins if you work in an occupation that requires you to stand for long periods of time. Other risk factors for varicose veins include obesity, pregnancy, and having a family history of varicose veins. Women are almost 4 times more likely to develop varicose veins than men. Your risk for varicose veins may increase with age.

What are the Symptoms of Venous Insufficiency?

While varicose veins are a cosmetic concern for many of our patients, approximately 10% to 20% of people with varicose veins experience aching and pain. The most common symptoms of venous insufficiency are pain and discomfort. You may also experience burning, throbbing or tingling in your legs.

Other symptoms of venous insufficiency include:

•    Dull achiness and heaviness of the legs
•    Fatigue, cramping, muscle soreness and swelling of the legs
•    Pain that is worse with prolonged periods of sitting or standing
•    Pain that improves after lying down
•    Restlessness (one of a few causes of “Restless Leg Syndrome”)
•    Skin discoloration or ulcerations near the ankle

**Leg pain and ulcerations can also be a sign of diseased arteries. Please click here to find out more.

What Can Happen if I Don’t Treat My Venous Insufficiency?

If left untreated, varicose veins can spontaneously bleed.  Leg pain will worsen with time and can keep you from being able to stand or walk for extended periods of time, thereby limiting your activity level.  With time, swelling in your leg worsens and can lead to skin breakdown and poor wound healing.  A small cut can take months to heal if there is significant venous insufficiency!

How is Venous Insufficiency Diagnosed?

Venous insufficiency is typically diagnosed during your medical examination. Ultrasound is helpful in documenting the abnormal blood flow and is often ordered to confirm the diagnosis.