The valves in your veins are an integral part of your vascular system, so when those valves don't work properly, problems occur. Poorly functioning valves can't transport blood back to the heart efficiently, causing a problem called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). Anyone can develop this condition, but it's more common in those with a family history of vascular problems, pregnant people, smokers, and those who are obese. While chronic venous insufficiency isn't fatal, it can cause other health conditions if left untreated. But how can you know if you have this common condition to start with? Here are four signs to look out for.
1. Varicose veins Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins. They usually show up on your legs but can also appear on other parts of your body where blood has to travel against gravity. For some people, they cause pain or itching, but others may have very few physical symptoms at all. Varicose veins have several possible causes, but one frequently overlooked possibility is chronic venous insufficiency.
2. Pain in your legs Pain in your legs (including your ankles) can also be a sign of chronic venous insufficiency. Pain usually occurs when you stand up, and may get worse when you walk or exercise. You may also experience a heavy and throbbing sensation. Naturally, leg pain is very common and not usually the sole, defining symptom of CVI, but if you have other symptoms alongside it, its worth checking out.
3. Skin problems The skin on the ankles, calves, feet and legs can also be affected by chronic venous insufficiency. Your skin might look darker than normal, usually forming brown patches. Alternatively, you may have noticed the skin on your legs thickening or becoming hard. Sometimes, itchy leg skin with no other noticeable skin changes can also be a symptom of chronic venous insufficiency. On top of that, look out for open sores that don't heal as quickly as they should.
4. Blood clots Blood clots can have a wide variety of causes, but that's why many people often overlook the possibility of chronic venous insufficiency after developing one. If you've had a blood clot in the past, particularly in the absence of any elevated risk factors like obesity or pregnancy, you may want to talk to your doctor about the possibility of CVI.
If you suspect you may have chronic venous insufficiency, contact your doctor for a vascular ultrasound to confirm or deny the diagnosis.