Venous Insufficiency: Prevention, Symptoms and Treatment

Chronic venous insufficiency, also known as chronic venous disease, is a condition that causes blood to pool in the legs. This can happen if the valves that return blood back to the heart don’t work correctly due to their structure. Valves can also stop working correctly due to damage from a previous blood clot, a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or another injury or trauma.

Studies completed across the world have concluded that an estimated one-third of adults are affected by venous insufficiency – with many of those cases left untreated.

Symptoms and Risk Factors

Although women are more likely to experience venous insufficiency, men may develop it as well. Your risk of developing venous insufficiency increases with age, if you have a family history of the condition, are pregnant or have had multiple pregnancies, are a smoker or are obese. Symptoms of venous insufficiency include:

  • Leg heaviness or fatigue.
  • Leg swelling.
  • Leg aching or cramping.
  • Dilated varicose or spider veins.
  • Wounds or ulcers on the legs, especially around the ankle region.

“The more worrisome symptom is wound development,” shares Kate Gates, DO, a vascular surgeon with Jobst Vascular Institute. “These wounds develop due to the increased pressure that builds up in the vein system. The pressure changes the composition of the skin tissue and then makes it harder for the wounds to heal, therefore increasing the risk of infection.”

In addition to the physical symptoms of venous insufficiency, studies have demonstrated that patients with this disease report poorer quality of life, limitation of activities of daily living, feelings of low self-esteem and increased prevalence of depression. All of this emphasizes that this disease goes beyond cosmetic complications and contributes to the increased social isolation of those with venous insufficiency.

Dr. Gates explains that the earlier you are able to see a doctor, the better. “If you are experiencing any leg swelling, heaviness, fatigue or wounds, it’s definitely a good time to be evaluated. A vascular specialist will be able to determine the cause of your symptoms and determine if there is anything that they can do to help treat the condition.”


Typically, non-invasive treatments to help improve blood flow are recommended first. These may include wearing compression stockings, keeping your legs elevated and exercising regularly.

If your symptoms do not improve or additional treatment is necessary, your doctor may recommend a minimally-invasive procedure to treat the vein(s) with the faulty valve that is causing the blood pooling.


Venous insufficiency often occurs in individuals that sit or stand for long periods of time. To prevent this, do your best to alternate between sitting and standing throughout your day.

If you have a family history of venous insufficiency, dilated veins or your occupation requires you to sit or stand for long periods of time without breaks, Dr. Gates recommends that you wear compression stockings throughout your day. Even if you are not experiencing symptoms of venous insufficiency or varicose veins, this may prevent the condition from developing in the first place. Additionally, exercising on a regular basis can be helpful for prevention.



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