Chronic venous insufficiency is a disease caused by weak, worn, or damaged valves in the veins of the legs. It causes swelling (edema) of the legs. It can also cause sores on the legs, especially in the area of the ankles..
The arteries pump blood from the heart and the veins return blood to the heart. Veins, unlike arteries, have no muscle tissue. Veins require the muscles in our feet and legs to return the blood, against gravity, to the heart. To help this process, the veins have a series of valves in them that prevent back flow.
The valves in your veins may be weak or worn. They may have been damaged by a blood clot in one of the deep veins of your leg. When these valves are not working well, the blood has difficulty moving upward. Prolonged increased pressure in the veins causes the valves to stretch out, making them unable to close properly. As a result, the blood flows back into other veins and pools in the tissues of the legs, causing swelling. It can also cause small veins in the skin to break. These sores are called stasis or varicose ulcers. The ulcers increase your risk of injury and infection. They are often difficult to treat.
In addition to blood clots, obesity, inactivity, and aging can contribute to the weakening of or damage to the valves. Some people may have just inherited weak valves.
Symptoms may include:
When you have stasis ulcers in the skin, the blood in the tissue breaks down and leaves a brownish color. The skin becomes dry, cracks, and itches.
The goals of treatment are to reduce the pooling of blood and prevent ulcers. Activities that increase venous blood flow, reduce pooling, and help prevent ulcers are:
To allow pooled blood to drain, raise your legs above the level of your heart at set times throughout the day (at least 30 minutes every 2 hours). At night, sleep with your feet elevated about 6 inches by propping them on pillows.
Special stockings may be prescribed by your health care provider to compress your legs and help the blood to return to the heart. Proper fit is very important. The stockings must provide greater pressure at the foot and ankle and gradually declining pressure up the leg. You should put the stockings on after a period of leg elevation, for example, before you get out of bed in the morning.
A walking program that starts with only a few steps every day but builds slowly and steadily may help prevent the progress of this condition.