Chronic venous insufficiency is a venous disease characterized by weak valves in the veins of the leg. These valves allow blood to travel backwards and forwards instead of towards the heart. Some of this blood then collects in the leg, causing pain and swelling. Leg ulcers can develop that take a long time to heal.
Why Do Valves Become Faulty?
Valves can become faulty due to varicose veins, as an after-effect of a blood clot (deep vein thrombosis) or trauma. Venous hypertension (high blood pressure in the veins) can also put pressure on them and weaken the valves. This is more common in overweight or obese people, during pregnancy or due to immobility.
Compression Stockings – A Simple and Effective Solution
Venous compression stockings are a simple and often effective solution to the pain caused by chronic venous insufficiency. They work by compressing the veins in the lower leg to force the blood to travel towards the heart. Blood pooling reduces, and so does the accompanying swelling and pain. Wearing the stocking every day and doing gentle exercise to strengthen calf muscles may improve valve function as well as allowing more fluid to be reabsorbed, lessening the chance of leg ulcers.
If the patient already has leg ulcers, aspirin, a well-known painkiller and anti-coagulant, can be used to help them heal faster.
If conservative measures don’t provide sufficient relief, sclerotherapy is another option. It involves injecting a chemical into the damaged vein so that it scars and cannot allow blood through. The blood will then be re-diverted through other veins and travel back towards the heart as intended. The body will eventually reabsorb the scarred vein.
Surgery is available for patients with severe disease.
Chronic venous insufficiency is common venous disease, causing leg pain and ulceration, but compression bandages and exercise can ease discomfort and aid healing. When this isn’t enough, sclerotherapy or surgery to remove the vein can restore function.