What is Chronic Venous Insufficiency?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2018
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Chronic venous insufficiency is a condition that affects the veins of the body and blood flow. To understand the condition, it is important to understand how blood flows in a person’s body. The arteries are responsible for transporting blood, which contains oxygen, to all parts of the body from a patient’s heart. However, the flow of blood doesn’t stop there. Instead, the veins have to transport the blood, now deprived of its oxygen, back to its starting point--the heart.

Sometimes the veins become damaged or too weak to move the blood back to the heart efficiently. When this occurs, the condition that develops is referred to as venous insufficiency. When it occurs for a long period of time, it is referred to as chronic venous insufficiency.

Leg muscles have an important role to play in pushing blood back towards the heart. When a person is standing up, the leg veins have a harder job because of the effects of gravity. In such a case, the veins must rely on help from the muscles to move the blood back up and towards the heart. The muscles work by squeezing the veins in the both a person’s feet and in his legs, assisting in moving the blood upward. Vein valves work to make sure the blood flows upward and doesn’t go in the wrong direction; they close when the muscles relax, keeping the blood from going the wrong way.


Walking helps to keep a person’s muscles, veins, and valves working well for the transportation of blood back to the heart. The opposite can be true when a person has been seated or standing for a long period of time. In this case, his blood may pool in his legs and feet, and the blood pressure through the leg veins may increase. This may not be so bad over the short term, but in the long term, the veins can stretch, weaken, and sustain damage.

When a person has chronic venous insufficiency, he may experience swelling legs and ankles as well as abnormally tight legs, particularly in the calf area. He may also notice leg fatigue and restlessness, and his legs may ache or feel painful, especially during or after walking. A person with chronic venous insufficiency may develop varicose veins as well.

Treatment for this condition depends on its severity. In mild cases, compression stockings and lifestyle changes may help. In other cases, surgery, ablation, or chemical treatments may be necessary. Surgical options include vein stripping, bypass surgery, valve repair, angioplasty and stenting.



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