When blood flow through veins is not adequate or healthy, resulting in blood “pooling” in the legs, this vascular condition is called venous insufficiency.
While arteries are responsible for carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body, veins carry blood back to the heart. Valves within these veins keep the blood from flowing backward. When blood is not sent back to the heart properly, it collects and remains in the veins. Two main causes associated with venous insufficiency are blood clots (deep vein thrombosis) and varicose veins.
To better understand, when blood flow is restricted due to a blood clot, the blood will naturally collect in the area beneath the clot. In the case of varicose veins, valves may be missing or impaired, resulting in blood leaking through the damaged valves.
Venous insufficiency is more prevalent in women between the ages of 40-49 (due to the levels of progesterone) and in men between the ages of 70-79. Even so, other factors may play a role including:
- Leg trauma
- Family health history of venous insufficiency
- Tall height
Individuals may experience a variety of symptoms as a result of venous insufficiency, such as the following:
- Edema (swelling) of legs or ankles
- Leg cramps
- Aching, throbbing in legs (claudication)
- Itchiness in legs
- Thickening of the skin on legs and ankles
- Skin color changes (particularly around ankles)
- Leg ulcers
- Varicose veins
- Muscle tightness in calves
An examination to confirm venous insufficiency will likely include a venogram or an ultrasound. A venogram involves putting contrast dye into veins through an IV. As veins appear opaque on the x-ray, doctors can thoroughly assess veins and blood vessels. The flow of blood is detected through a specific ultrasound called Duplex ultrasound. This is performed using a transducer that emits sound waves when pressed against the skin. An image will appear that shows the direction of blood flow, as well as the speed.
Treatment for Venous Insufficiency
While initial treatment for venous insufficiency often focuses on self-care steps, treatment will ultimately depend on the severity of symptoms that are present. For instance, if an individual has dramatic changes in skin color of the legs, skin care treatments or medications may be necessary. In cases of skin ulcers, severe leg pain and thickening or hardening of skin on the legs and ankles, more progressive treatment may be needed.
Treatment Options for venous insufficiency may include:
- Sclerotherapy: saline (salt water) is injected into the vein, causing it to harden and disappear.
- Phlebectomy: small incisions are made near the damaged vein the leg, and the vein is removed.
- Laser therapy
- Varicose vein stripping: a large vein in the leg is tied off.
Board Certified Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon, Dr. Alan I. Benvenisty, MD holds a particular interest in minimally invasive treatments for numerous vascular conditions, including venous insufficiency. With a philosophy of treating patients as individuals, Dr. Benvenisty is able to provide conscientious care that puts patients at ease.
If you are suffering from symptoms associated with venous insufficiency, contact Dr. Benvenisty at our office on Amsterdam Avenue today.