Veins return blood to the heart from all the body’s organs. To reach the heart, the blood needs to flow upward from the veins in the legs. Calf muscles and the muscles in the feet need to contract with each step to squeeze the veins and push the blood upward. To keep the blood flowing up, and not back down, the veins contain one-way valves.
Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when these valves become damaged, allowing the blood to leak backward. When the veins and valves are weakened to the point where it is difficult for the blood to flow up to the heart, blood pressure in the veins stays elevated for long periods of time, leading to chronic venous insufficiency.
Around 40% of the population suffer from CVI. The most important risk factors are:
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Varicose veins or a family history of varicose veins
- Inactivity – reduced mobility
- Extended periods of standing or sitting
- Female gender
- Age over 50
Treatment for Chronic Venous Insufficiency
- Usually treated with exercise, compression stockings and weight loss if applicable.
- In some cases, may require vein ablation or vein stripping.
- Occasionally treated with angioplasty and stents.
- Preventing severe complications such as venous leg ulcers is key.
What can you do?
- Lifestyle changes such as exercise and diet to prevent obesity.
- Stop smoking.
- Keep using calf muscle while sitting or standing for long periods.
- Wear compression stockings to help with venous return.