What is it?

Venous insufficiency is a common disease state defined by leaky valves in the venous system of the lower extremities. The veins are responsible for blood return from the body to the heart. Over time, with age and other conditions such as obesity and pregnancy, the valves become incompetent and blood return becomes inefficient. Throughout the day, blood continues to pool slowly in the legs and they start to swell. Dark pigmentation in the legs from the blood may also be seen in some patients. Swelling tends to abate at night as the legs are elevated. Symptoms associated with venous insufficiency include swelling, leg pains, cramps and restless leg among others. The diagnosis is made clinically and confirmed by ultrasound to check the veins in the legs.

How is it treated?

Initial treatment is focused on prescription compression stockings. These should be worn all day and taken off at night. Compression stockings will help increase venous return and decrease the pooling of blood and associated symptoms in the majority of patients. It is important to remove stockings at night when patients are off their feet to give the legs a chance to breathe. Ultimate treatment may also include venous ablation. The principle is to create clot burden in the superficial venous system to promote more efficient deep vein drainage of blood throughout the day. Your doctor will discuss you options based on symptomatology and duration of disease.

QUICK LINKS

www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000203.htm – Information on venous insufficiency
www.amazon.com/Compression-Socks – Site to find cheaper compression socks than pharmacy