Our cardiovascular system is a complex network that works to deliver blood throughout our bodies efficiently.
Arteries carry blood away from our heart to the rest of our body, while our veins carry blood back to the heart for oxygenation.
Within our veins, there are tiny, one-way valves that push blood forward and towards the heart, preventing blood from flowing backward and pooling in our limbs.
When the valves are damaged or not working correctly, the veins have trouble moving blood back to the heart, a condition known as venous insufficiency.
Venous insufficiency allows a backflow of blood to pool in the veins of the leg, which can lead to several symptoms.
What Causes Venous Insufficiency?
The most common causes of venous insufficiency are varicose veins or blood clots, such as Deep Vein Thrombosis.
What Are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins develop when the one-way valves inside the veins are damaged, weakened, or missing entirely.
As a result, blood pools within the veins of the leg, increasing the pressure inside the vein causing venous congestion. Often, these veins will twist and bulge due to the increased pressure.
Who Is At-Risk for Developing Varicose Veins?
Several factors increase the chances of developing varicose veins, including:
- Family history
- Being female
- Standing or sitting for prolonged periods
A blood clot obstructs the forward flow of blood through the vein, creating a build-up of blood below the clot itself.
Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a severe condition that occurs when a blood clot develops within a vein deep inside the body. Often, DVT occurs in a thigh vein or the lower leg.
What Are the Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
The following symptoms are associated with DVT and require immediate medical attention:
- Sudden cramping that beings in the calf
- Sudden and severe pain in the foot or ankle
- Swelling in the foot, ankle or leg (usually on one side)
- Skin that is warm to the touch
- Skin that is pale, reddish or blue
Of significance, symptoms only appear in 50% of people who develop DVT. Without proper care and medical attention, a DVT can lead to a pulmonary embolism.
A pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot from deep inside the body travels to the lung. Immediate, emergency medical attention is needed when a pulmonary embolism occurs.
What Are The Symptoms Of Venous Insufficiency?
Venous insufficiency may come on gradually, with little to no symptoms are first. As the condition worsens, several symptoms may develop, such as:
- Swelling in the ankle and legs (edema)
- Cramping, aching or throbbing
- A feeling of heaviness or fatigue
- A sensation of tightness in the calves
- Discoloration or thickening of the skin around the ankles or calves
- Varicose veins
- Pain that worsens with prolonged sitting or standing
- Ulcer or sores on the legs that will not heal
Are There Risk Factors Associated With Venous Insufficiency?
Several risk factors increase your chances of developing venous insufficiency, such as:
- Family history
- Trauma or injury to the leg
- Phlebitis (swelling of a superficial vein)
- Sitting or standing for prolonged periods
Also, women are more likely than men to develop venous insufficiency, as well as being over the age of 50.
It’s important to note that venous insufficiency may not always cause pain, so being aware of any new developments or visible changes to your veins is essential.
How Can I Prevent Venous Insufficiency?
If you have a family history of venous insufficiency, you may not be able to prevent the condition.
Keep in mind; many lifestyle factors can lessen your chance of developing the condition, such as:
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight and diet
- Do not smoke
- Avoid sitting or standings for long periods
- Avoid high heels
- Avoid tight clothing around the waist and pelvis
How Can I Help Increase Blood Circulation in my Legs?
There are several steps you can take that will improve the blood flow and circulation in your legs.
- Stay hydrated
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid crossing your legs when sitting
- Wear compression stockings
- Periodically elevate your legs above your heart.