What are chronic venous insufficiency and postphlebitic syndrome?
Chronic venous insufficiency is damage to your leg veins that keeps your blood from flowing normally.
Phlebitis is inflammation of one of your veins. It's often caused by a blood clot in your vein. Postphlebitic syndrome is a problem that happens after you've had phlebitis.
Chronic venous insufficiency may cause pain or aching, swelling, skin rash, leg sores, and changes in how your leg looks
Doctors do an ultrasound to look at blood flow in your leg veins to tell if you have chronic venous insufficiency
To treat chronic venous insufficiency, keep your leg raised, wear compression stockings, and carefully treat any skin sores
What causes chronic venous insufficiency?
The main cause of chronic venous insufficiency is:
A blood clot in your vein can cause scarring and problems with the valves in the vein. The valves are 2 flaps of tissue that act like one-way gates. They let blood flow only in one direction, toward your heart. If the valves are damaged, blood collects in your legs. Damage to the valves after having a blood clot in a vein can cause leg problems called postphlebitic syndrome.
One-Way Valves in the Veins
One-way valves consist of two flaps (cusps or leaflets) with edges that meet. These valves help veins return blood to the heart. As blood moves toward the heart, it pushes the cusps open like a pair of one-way swinging doors (shown on the left). If gravity momentarily pulls the blood backward or if blood begins to back up in a vein, the cusps are immediately pushed closed, preventing backward flow (shown on the right).
You have a higher chance of having chronic venous insufficiency if you:
Have a leg injury
Are an older person
Are very overweight
What are the symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency?
Symptoms may include:
Leg swelling that usually gets better after you’ve been lying down for several hours
Varicose veins Varicose Veins Varicose veins are veins just under your skin that become very large, twisted, and bulging. They're usually on your legs. Varicose veins may hurt, itch, or ache Varicose veins are more common... read more (swollen veins in your legs that you can often see as bulges under your skin)
Scaly, itchy skin on the inside of your ankle—the skin may turn reddish-brown
If you have severe venous insufficiency:
Your lower leg may get bigger than normal
You may get skin ulcers (open sores) that don’t heal well
How can doctors tell if I have chronic venous insufficiency?
Doctors usually can tell if you have chronic venous insufficiency from your symptoms and a physical exam.
Sometimes doctors will do an ultrasound of your legs.
How do doctors treat chronic venous insufficiency?
Resting your leg and raising it above your heart—you'll do this for a half hour or longer, at least 3 times per day
Compressing (squeezing) your leg using elastic bandages, special stockings, or air-filled wraps connected to a machine that squeezes your legs from time to time
Taking good care of any skin sores
Your doctor may use bandages that have medicine in them to help the skin sores heal.
How can I prevent chronic venous insufficiency?
Making changes in your life can help, such as:
Being active each day
Eating less salt (sodium)
If you've had deep vein thrombosis Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Deep vein thrombosis is the formation of blood clots (thrombi) in the deep veins, usually in the legs. Blood clots may form in veins if the vein is injured, a disorder causes the blood to clot... read more , your doctor may prescribe blood-thinning medicines to prevent postphlebitic syndrome.