Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI), also known as Venous Reflux Disease, is a condition that occurs when the venous wall and/or valves in the leg veins are not working effectively, making it difficult for blood to return to the heart from the legs. CVI causes blood to collect in these veins and this pooling is called stasis.
What are the symptoms of CVI?
The seriousness of CVI, along with the complexities of treatment, increase as the disease progresses. That’s why it is very important to see your doctor if you have any of the symptoms of CVI. The problem will not go away if you wait, and the earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the better your chances of preventing serious complications.Symptoms include:
- Swelling in the lower legs and ankles, especially after extended periods of standing
- Aching or tiredness in the legs
- New varicose veins
- Leathery-looking skin on the legs
- Flaking or itching skin on the legs or feet
- Stasis ulcers (or venous stasis ulcers)
If CVI is not treated, the pressure and swelling increase until the tiniest blood vessels in the legs (capillaries) burst. When this happens, the overlying skin takes on a reddish-brown color and is very sensitive to being broken if bumped or scratched.
At the least, burst capillaries can cause local tissue inflammation and internal tissue damage. At worst, this leads to ulcers, open sores on the skin surface. These venous stasis ulcers can be difficult to heal and can become infected. When the infection is not controlled, it can spread to surrounding tissue, a condition known as cellulitis.
CVI is often associated with varicose veins, which are twisted, enlarged veins close to the surface of the skin. They can occur almost anywhere, but most commonly occur in the legs.
Who’s most commonly affected by CVI?
An estimated 40 percent of people in the United States have CVI. It occurs more frequently in people over age 50, and more often in women than in men. CVI most commonly occurs as the result of a blood clot in the deep veins of the legs, a disease known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). CVI also results from pelvic tumors and vascular malformations, and sometimes occurs for unknown reasons.