Veins are blood vessels through which blood from the arms, legs and internal organs flows to the heart. Venous insufficiency is a condition that it is affecting the normal blood flow through the veins. This disease can be caused by several veins diseases, in particular, deep venous thrombosis or varicose veins.
Through healthy veins a steady stream of blood flows from the legs to the heart. In the veins of legs there are a number of valves that are blocking the blood flow to return, making it unidirectional. Venous insufficiency occurs when the blood which is circulating through the veins is obstructed by a blood clot or appear leaks of blood flow through venous valves (which allow the reflux of blood). Most cases of venous insufficiency are involving the both situations.
Most of the time, venous insufficiency appears before varicose veins or before the formation of blood clots. In some cases, weakness of leg muscles can cause the blood to circulate with pressure through the veins and in time, the veins will dilate and the valves will deteriorate, which can contribute to the installation of venous insufficiency.
Risk factors that may contribute to the installation of venous insufficiency are:
- Old age;
- Varicose veins;
- Deep venous thrombosis (blood clots);
- Medical family history of venous insufficiency (other family members have the disease);
- Muscle weakness;
- Injuries of the legs;
- Numbness, painful cramps and heaviness in the legs;
- Itching and tingling of the legs;
- Pain which became worse when the patient is standing;
- Pain which is relieved when the legs are lifted up;
- Swelling of the feet;
- Erythema (redness) of the legs and ankles;
- Skin that is changing its color around the ankles;
- May occur superficial varicose veins;
- The skin of the legs and ankles is thickened;
- Ulcers of the legs, especially on the ankle.
Certain medications and the lack of activity can affect the muscles and veins of the legs. Patients should consider the signs and symptoms of venous insufficiency before they travel or before they have a surgical intervention and in this case they should notify the doctor.
There are several treatment options for venous insufficiency, which are recommended depending on the triggering causes. The most frequently applied treatment involves wearing medicinal elastic stockings. These stockings will apply pressure on the lower legs and ankle and enhances venous blood flow and in this way will prevent swelling of the feet.
Elastic stockings are available in pharmacies in a large variety (in length and elasticity). The doctor will determine the right type of stockings, depending on the severity of venous insufficiency. If inflammation is present, the physician will prescribe a special treatment to improve of inflammation. To relieve leg swelling caused by venous insufficiency, the patient should keep his feet elevated above the heart level when is sitting down. It is also recommended for the patient to adopt an exercise program, from which the walking should not miss, to improve the blood circulation of the legs.
Weight loss is another useful recommendation for treating venous insufficiency, particularly beneficial in overweight or in obese patients.
In patients with venous insufficiency caused by blood clots, doctors will prescribe anticoagulants or drugs that are designed to dilute the blood stream, treatment useful for blood clots that are already formed, but also useful for preventing formation of others blood clots.
Prevention of venous insufficiency is important in patients who had cases of venous insufficiency in their family. Strategies to prevent blood clots can be helpful in chronic venous insufficiency. Prevention methods differ from patient to patient, and for this reason the doctor and the patient should discuss for adopting a program which aims to prevent venous insufficiency.
Steps that are helpful in prevention of venous insufficiency:
- The patients should keep a normal body weight, to lose weight if is overweight or obese;
- Regular physical exercise;
- If patients are smoking, they should quit, smoking is affecting the blood flow;
- The patients should protect their feet from possible injuries;
- Patients should not stand up or sit on a chair in one position for long time, they should get up and walk from time to time