Normally, valves in your deeper leg veins keep blood moving forward toward the heart. With long-term (chronic) venous insufficiency, vein walls are weakened and valves are damaged. This causes the veins to stay filled with blood, especially when you are standing.
Chronic venous insufficiency is a long-term condition. It is most commonly due to malfunctioning (incompetent) valves in the veins. It may also occur as the result of a past blood clot in the legs.
Risk factors for venous insufficiency include:
Family history of this condition
Female gender (related to levels of the hormone progesterone)
Thickening and hardening of the skin on the legs and ankles (lipodermatosclerosis)
Wound or ulcer that is slow to heal on the legs or ankles
Exams and Tests
Your health care provider will do a physical exam and ask about your symptoms and medical history. Diagnosis is often made based on the appearance of leg veins when you are standing or sitting with your legs dangling.
Do not sit or stand for long periods. Even moving your legs slightly helps keep the blood flowing.
Care for wounds if you have any open sores or infections.
Lose weight if you are overweight.
You can wear compression stockings to improve blood flow in your legs. Compression stockings gently squeeze your legs to move blood up your legs. This helps prevent leg swelling and, to a lesser extent, blood clots.
When more advanced skin changes are present, your provider:
Chronic venous insufficiency tends to get worse over time. However, it can be managed if treatment is started in the early stages. By taking self-care steps, you may be able to ease the discomfort and prevent the condition from getting worse. It is likely that you will need medical procedures to treat the condition.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if:
You have varicose veins and they are painful.
Your condition gets worse or does not improve with self-care, such as wearing compression stockings or avoiding standing for too long.
You have a sudden increase in leg pain or swelling, fever, redness of the leg, or leg sores.
Deepak Sudheendra, MD, RPVI, Assistant Professor of Interventional Radiology & Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, with an expertise in Vascular Interventional Radiology & Surgical Critical Care, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.