Venous Insufficiency

Venous insufficiency is also known under the names “superficial venous insufficiency,” “chronic venous hypertension,” and “stasis distal venopathy,” among many others. Venous insufficiency is extremely common, yet not well known or understood by many, including healthcare professionals.

Most people are familiar with only one aspect of venous insufficiency: varicose veins, or varicosities. What is not known is that varicose veins are not a disease, but merely one of the symptoms of venous insufficiency. More specifically, everyone with venous insufficiency does have varicosities. Very rarely, however, are those varicose veins visible to the naked eye. Furthermore, most people suffering from venous insufficiency have no visible symptoms at all. It is like many other diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and others.

The main problem with venous insufficiency is the following. Veins, just like arteries, are the blood vessels. While the arteries carry oxygenated blood away from the heart, the veins bring deoxygenated blood back to the heart. In humans, the legs are at a disadvantage due to our erect posture. The blood flows there due to not only the contraction of the heart, but also with the help of gravity. To get the blood back up to the heart, our veins have multiple one-way valves, like the ones in our hearts. These valves allow the blood to go up while blocking its way down.

With venous insufficiency, some leg veins become too wide, creating a gap between normal valves. Through this gap, the deoxygenated blood leaks backwards instead of moving up toward the heart. Since such reversal of blood flow leads to further elevation of venous blood pressure, varicose veins form, and legs become swollen, heavy, and achy. The fact that venous blood has no oxygen but plenty of lactic acid and other end-metabolites, is responsible for pain, muscle cramps, restless legs, tiredness, fatigue, difficulties walking and standing, itching, numbness, sensation of “pins and needles” and many other symptoms.

Left untreated, venous insufficiency eventually leads to complications, such as trophic ulcers, blood clots, bleeding, infection, and even skin cancer.

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