Chronic venous insufficiency (known as CVI) is a condition that affects the veins in your legs. When it occurs, blood doesn’t flow back to the heart properly, causing it to pool and leading to the formation of varicose veins. CVI can result in a range of symptoms, some as mild as itchiness or swelling in the legs while others can be more severe, including ulcers and intermittent pain.
Roughly 40 per cent of the population suffers from Chronic Venous Insufficiency, so how do you know if you’re vulnerable? Below are the top risk factors for chronic venous insufficiency.
What is chronic venous insufficiency?
When the veins are overstrained, the valves that pump the blood in the right direction can become overstrained, the veins walls stretched and weakened, leading to a backflow of blood that can start to leak into the surrounding tissue if left untreated.
This is most often due to blood clots forming in the veins from a build-up of plaque, or in less common cases from damage direct to the vein (bone fractures, severe injuries etc).
What is venous insufficiency?
While there are many different circumstances that can have a small impact on your veins, certain things can greatly increase the risk of chronic venous insufficiency developing. These include:
- Age: As you continue to get older, your veins gradually weaken. It’s an inevitability for all of us. Once you’re past the age of 50, your risk of CVI increases notably.
- Family History: If your relatives have had issues with vein problems, you’re much more likely to develop them yourself. Having a genetic predisposition means the chances of CVI developing is much higher.
- Excess weight: Being heavily overweight or obese can lead to many different health issues, in particular problems affecting the heart and veins. The high amount of weight puts more strain on the veins so they can’t function properly. This can also be related to high levels of fat and sugar in the diet which can lead to the formation of plaque and clots in the veins.
- Smoking: This one is fairly obvious for health reasons. For decades now, smoking has conclusively been proven to have wide-ranging negative effects on your health. It can lead to CVI and other vein issues as it weakens your vein walls, impairing blood flow and vein function.
- Hormones: When your body goes through distinct hormonal changes (EG menopause, pregnancy and HRT), your vein walls are increasingly strained and weakened. This can lead to CVI, varicose veins and other issues.
- Poor lifestyle: Lack of exercise, poor fitness or just staying seated or standing still for extended periods of time can have an incredibly detrimental effect on your health. In particular, your venous system relies on regular physical activity to stay healthy and efficient. This can also lead to weight gain, which can then compound to lead to greatly diminished blood-flow.
How to treat or manage chronic venous insufficiency
Whether or not you have CVI, it’s important to manage and reduce any risk factors to take care of your vein health now and long into the future.
If you have been diagnosed with CVI, have one or more of the risk factors listed earlier, or suffer from any of the following symptoms in your legs, then you should make changes as soon as you can to protect yourself.
- Dry or itchy skin in the legs
- Open sores that don’t heal properly
- Redness or hard and shiny surfaces on the skin
- Weeping or oozing fluid from the skin
CVI itself doesn’t have a simple cure, but with some lifestyle changes and simple efforts, you can reduce your risk of it worsening or developing in the first place, and manage any current symptoms.
Tips to take care of your vein health
- Start a regular exercise routine. At least 20 minutes of walking per day helps.
- Wearing medical-grade compression stockings compensates for poor blood flow.
- Cut down on trans and saturated fats and processed sugars, and eat additional plant-based food like leafy greens, fruit and vegetables.
- In cases where varicose veins have developed, see a vein specialist to look at treatment options.
- If you smoke, speak to your GP to get help to quit for good.
- Check your family history and understand your risk to see how you can stay ahead of it.
Seek expert advice
The doctors at The Vein Institute specialise in varicose vein treatment. We offer patients a comprehensive program using non-surgical laser treatment techniques. You can learn more in our Definitive Guide to Varicose Vein Treatment.
The benefits of non-surgical varicose vein treatment are:
- Walk-in walk-out treatment
- 98% success rate
- Extremely effective
- Can be performed at a clinic (no hospitalisation)
- No general anaesthetic
- Medicare rebates apply
- No downtime or time away from work