Venous insufficiency is more common than you may think — more than 25 million Americans experience some type of vein-related health problem. Despite how widespread this is, many people are unaware of the true causes of venous insufficiency or the current treatments available.
What is Venous Insufficiency?
Vein valves are busy circulating blood through your body, and the ones in your legs are working overtime. These valves carry the extra task of pushing blood against the weight of gravity. Similar to how taking on too much pressure can wear us down physically, vein valves can become weakened or damaged over time. Blood can then pool in the leg, causing swelling, pain, or the formation of a varicose vein.
What Causes Venous Insufficiency?
There are a lot of factors that can increase your risk of developing some sort of vein problem. This includes:
- Family history. Genetics can play a huge role in whether or not you’ll develop vein problems at some point in your life.
- Leg damage. Trauma to your leg can increase your risk of vein problems, whether it’s through an old injury, surgery, or a previous blood clot.
- Stationary lifestyle. Sitting or standing for hours at a time can be bad for your circulation and your veins. This is most commonly associated with professions that require employees to either sit or stand all day, such as in office or retail work.
- Pregnancy. The hormonal changes and extra pressure on your legs can damage your veins, and the effects can be worse with each subsequent pregnancy. Although symptoms tend to subside after delivery, varicose veins are apt to return postpartum.
What Are the Symptoms of Venous Insufficiency?
Poor vein health is commonly associated with visible veins, but you can certainly have vein problems without any visible symptoms. Other signs can include:
- Swollen legs or ankles. As blood pools in the lower leg, the vein swells. This can create associated swelling in the leg or ankle.
- Itchy, painful, or restless legs. Unhealthy veins can be painful. If your legs are hurting even without putting excess pressure on them, your veins may be at fault.
- Brownish skin. Sometimes venous insufficiency can appear similar to a skin condition. Skin around the ankles especially can appear discolored.
- Varicose veins. The symptom most commonly associated with venous insufficiency, varicose veins are dark, bulging, and very visible under the skin.
- Leg ulcers. Venous insufficiency lowers your veins’ healing abilities. This increases your risk of developing an ulcer after experiencing any trauma to the leg.
How is Venous Insufficiency Diagnosed?
When you drop by to see a specialist, like the knowledgeable ones at the Central Florida Vein & Vascular Center, they’ll first assess your vein health with a diagnostic exam, using a tool like an ultrasound to get a better look at your veins. This is a critical step, as you can’t see the full picture of your vein health with just your eyes. Afterward, the specialist will create a treatment plan for your vein health, taking into consideration how serious your symptoms are, your medical history, age, and overall health.
How is Venous Insufficiency Treated?
Treatment has come a long way since the painful days of vein stripping. At Central Florida Vein & Vascular Center, we offer several treatment options for venous insufficiency. All of our procedures are minimally invasive with little downtime, so you can quickly get back on your feet and enjoy pain-free legs. Insurance carriers will often cover the costs as well. Here are some of the procedures that may be included in a treatment plan.
Endovenous Laser Treatment
This procedure has replaced vein stripping, becoming the gold standard in eliminating troublesome veins. During endovenous laser treatment, a specialist uses an ultrasound to first locate the damaged vein. They then apply heat to the vein through a catheter, causing the vein to collapse and seal shut. What happens to the blood in the vein? It’s automatically routed to healthy veins that can handle proper circulation.
Sclerotherapy is most commonly used to minimize the appearance of spider veins, although it can also be used as a follow-up to any small, visible veins lingering after endovenous laser treatment. A specialist will use an ultrasound or veinlite to target the vein before injecting a sclerosing agent into it. This agent causes the vessels to scar and become less visible, effectively reducing their appearance.
Sometimes endovenous laser treatment or sclerotherapy isn’t enough to fully minimize the appearance of veins. Microphlebectomy can get rid of dark, bulging veins without scarring and pain. A specialist first makes small, 1-2mm micro-incisions, through which they can divide and remove the vein. The bulging vein is gone immediately post-procedure, and the only “scars” are small dots where the micro-incisions were made. These fade within a few weeks.
Did you know that a special sort of glue can help venous insufficiency? During Venaseal, a specialist applies medical glue to the damaged vein through a catheter. The vein seals shut, hardens, and is then absorbed by the body. This removes the vein without any scarring or vein stripping.
Contact Central Florida Vein & Vascular Center
Those are the basics of venous insufficiency. If you have a question or concern that isn’t covered here, we can help. You can schedule a consultation with one of our specialists by calling 407-545-3385 or 352-658-5547. We’ll address your concerns, assess your vein health, and craft a treatment plan that will be best for you and your veins.