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Venous insufficiency

Venous insufficiency (sometimes called chronic venous incompetence or chronic venous disease) is a long-term condition. It happens when the walls of your leg veins are weak and the valves in your leg veins are damaged. This makes it difficult for the blood to return to your heart, and causes the blood to flow backwards and collect in your veins.

Symptoms include dull pain, which gets worse when standing, cramping and itchy skin. Venous insufficiency causes changes to your skin, making it go brown and get thicker. Your legs may ache and feel heavy, and your lower legs may swell.

Venous insufficiency increases your risk of varicose eczema, venous leg ulcers and cellulitis. It can also lead to varicose veins, thrombophlebitis and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

What causes venous insufficiency?

Your risk of getting venous insufficiency is increased by:

How is venous insufficiency diagnosed?

Your GP can usually diagnose venous insufficiency by talking to you and examining your legs.

How is venous insufficiency treated?

The treatment for venous insufficiency depends upon your age and how bad your symptoms are. Treatment options include reducing your risk factors and wearing compression stockings.

Reducing your risk factors

You can’t control all risk factors, but lifestyle changes can help you lower some risks. This means:

You can also wear compression stockings.

If you have venous leg ulcers, you'll also need treatment for those.

If your venous insufficiency is very bad, your GP may refer you to a vascular specialist (a surgical doctor who specialises in blood vessels) to consider surgical treatments.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created July 2018.

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