Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a circulatory system disorder that affects the ability of blood to flow properly when returning from the body to the heart. It affects some 40% of the United States population, occurring mostly in people over 50, and in women more frequently than men.
At Dallas Vein Institute, now with locations in Dallas and Hurst, Texas, Dr. Dev Batra and his team diagnose and treat all manner of vein problems, including chronic venous insufficiency. Since CVI can impact both your circulatory and overall health, they’ve put together this informational guide on its causes so you’ll know when to seek medical help.
To understand the causes of CVI, it helps to know something about how the veins work. Your heart pumps out oxygenated blood that’s carried by the arteries to all of the body’s tissues. Once the blood releases its oxygen, a network of veins carries the nutrient-poor blood back to the heart. Though it’s literally an uphill battle to get from your feet to your heart, your body has built-in mechanisms to help the process.
The first is simple muscle contraction: your calf and thigh muscles contract, squeezing the blood vessels and forcing the blood to move forward. The second is a series of one-way veins that snap shut after the blood has passed through to prevent backflow.
As you age, the valves naturally weaken, allowing blood to trickle backward along its path and pool around the valve. In addition, high blood pressure (hypertension) and even being on your feet all day can put undue stress on the vein walls and on the valves, damaging them in the process. Blood flow becomes sluggish and pools around the damaged valve.
A third cause is deep vein thrombosis (DVT) — the clinical term for a blood clot developing inside one of your deep veins. When this happens, it becomes an obstacle in the way of the blood, causing it to slow down. CVI that develops from DVT is also called post-thrombotic syndrome, and about 30% of DVT patients develop this problem within 10 years following diagnosis.
While CVI may produce few symptoms initially, it does present several visible symptoms if not treated soon after development. Two of the initial manifestations are spider veins and varicose veins.
Spider veins are thin veins located close to the skin’s surface. As blood pools in a damaged vein, it can cause these superficial veins to become visible. Because they’re so thin, they form a spiderweb-like appearance, most often on the legs and on the face. They may cause discomfort, but most of the time, they’re painless and more of a cosmetic issue than a health one.
Varicose veins are larger than spider veins, and when the blood pools, it causes a protrusion on the surface of the skin. The protrusion appears red, purple, or blue and takes on a “ropy” appearance. While varicose veins may, like spider veins, be simply a cosmetic concern, they can cause symptoms that include:
Unlike spider veins, if varicose veins aren’t treated, they may lead to several serious health problems, including:
Even if you’re not experiencing symptoms, you should always see Dr. Batra for your varicose veins so he can prevent them from causing damage.
There's no way to completely prevent CVI. However, if you improve your circulation and muscle tone, you can reduce that risk. Some recommendations include:
If you haven’t had a vein check in a while, or if you’re experiencing symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency, it’s time to come into Dallas Vein Institute for an evaluation with Dr. Batra. Give us a call at either of our locations or book online with us today.