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Venous Insufficiency

Venous insufficiency is a condition in which veins in the legs cannot move blood back to the heart effectively. Other names for venous insufficiency are chronic venous stasis and chronic venous disease.

Venous insufficiency happens when a vein is partially blocked or when the valves in leg veins are leaky. This causes the veins to stay filled with blood instead of pumping it back to the heart.

Untreated venous insufficiency can result in pain, swelling and leg ulcers.

Venous insufficiency symptoms

Symptoms of venous insufficiency may include the following:

  • Swelling (edema), itching or tingling in your legs
  • Aching, cramping or a feeling of heaviness in your legs
  • Pain that gets worse when you stand and better when you raise your legs
  • Redness or other skin-color changes on your legs and ankles
  • Varicose veins
  • Thickening or hardening of the skin on your legs or ankles
  • Slow-to-heal ulcers on your legs or the insides of your ankles

Venous insufficiency risk factors

These factors make you more likely to suffer from venous insufficiency:

  • Being female
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Being pregnant
  • Being tall
  • Having a family history of venous insufficiency
  • Being prone to deep vein thrombosis in your legs
  • Regularly sitting or standing for long periods of time

How can I get help for venous insufficiency?

Talk with your primary care doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of venous insufficiency. If the symptoms are mild, he or she may advise you to do one or more of the following:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Wear compression stockings to decrease swelling in your legs
  • Exercise regularly and avoid sitting or standing for long periods
  • Quit smoking

If you need further care, you may be referred to a vascular surgeon or interventional radiologist for evaluation.

Care for venous insufficiency at Rush

Vascular surgeons or interventional radiologists at Rush might use one of the following tests to evaluate your venous insufficiency:

  • A venogram, in which a contrast dye is put into your veins through an IV to reveal narrowing or blockages on x-rays
  • A duplex ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create images of your veins and how well the blood flows through them

Treatment for venous insufficiency might involve using minimally invasive techniques to close off the affected veins. These veins are absorbed into the body and the blood is rerouted through functioning veins. These techniques include the following:

  • Sclerotherapy, in which salt water or a chemical solution is injected into the affected vein
  • Endovenous laser or radiofrequency ablation, which use a laser beam or electrical current to close off and destroy the vein

In a small number of serious cases, a procedure might be recommended. These include the following:

  • Vein stripping, or removal of malfunctioning veins through small incisions
  • Bypass to reroute blood flow around the blocked vein using a blood vessel taken from elsewhere in your body
  • Valve repair to stop valves from leaking
  • Angioplasty and stenting, in which a narrowed vein is widened with a tiny balloon and a stent (mesh tube) is placed inside the vein to keep it from narrowing again

Why choose Rush for venous insufficiency care

  • Rush Vein Specialists, a practice within the vascular surgery program at Rush, and interventional radiologists at Rush have experience handling both routine and complex cases. They are often able to discover and successfully treat underlying conditions that could eventually become severely debilitating.
  • Members of the Rush Vein Specialists team are also members of the American Venous Forum, a nationwide group of specialists who collaborate to exchange information and improve patient care.
  • Because Rush is a major medical research center, vascular surgeons and interventional radiologists at Rush are continually exploring new ways to treat venous insufficiency. They offer the latest treatment options, including the use of state-of-the-art lasers for vein ablation.

Departments and programs that treat this condition