Have you ever considered how the circulatory system functions? While we often celebrate the power of the heart, we tend to overlook the importance of our veins in maintaining this life-giving circulation. Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) is a condition that arises when a vein’s efficiency is compromised, leading to a range of uncomfortable and potentially serious health issues.
To fully understand this condition, and how we can manage it effectively, it’s important to know the impact it can have on the body and that involves going on a journey as we unravel the stages of chronic venous insufficiency. So let’s do exactly that.
Stage 1 - A whisper of warning
Like the first gentle ripples on a serene lake, the early stages of CVI will start subtly with mild symptoms that are hardly noticeable. In these early stages, you may experience the occasional leg cramp or tingling sensation, interspersed with an itching feeling. Perhaps after a long day, you might notice a slight swelling around the ankles. These conditions are not normally enough to cause any great discomfort, but they can be telltale signs that venous valves are beginning to falter.
Paying attention to these symptoms now can stop the condition from transitioning further.
Stage 2 – A rising tide of discomfort
As chronic venous insufficiency worsens, the signs become more evident and the discomfort, more pronounced. When the vein valves malfunction further, you may start to experience persistent leg swelling, especially after long periods of sitting or standing. Any once-supple skin may also show signs of discoloration, becoming more brownish or reddish due to an accumulation of blood pigment (known as hyperpigmentation).
Additionally, the veins themselves often become more pronounced as they appear twisted or knotted through the skin, giving rise to what is commonly known as varicose veins. While varicose veins themselves aren’t always the sole indicator of CVI, the condition may become more apparent when one or more of the other symptoms occur.
Stage 3 – A tsunami of complications
If CVI is not addressed in stages one and two, it will worsen and become even more noticeable. So much so, that it demands attention and action. Any pain at this stage will typically be sharp and constant, accompanied by a feeling of heaviness in the leg. Ulcers (often referred to as venous stasis ulcers) will start to appear on the skin around the ankles. These ulcers are normally slow to heal, typically taking months rather than weeks, and are prone to infections, significantly impacting quality of life.
Additionally, any persistent blood pooling can lead to blood clots, elevating the risk of more serious complications like deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Stage 4 - A call for action
Anyone facing this stage of chronic venous insufficiency requires immediate intervention. Usually, the condition’s impact on daily life is profound, drastically limiting mobility and causing emotional distress For these reasons, seeking urgent medical attention becomes imperative.
Thankfully, there are several treatments available ranging from compression therapy, designed to increase blood flow to the legs, to minimally invasive outpatient treatments like sclerotherapy and endovenous laser treatment; all of which are designed to alleviate the debilitating symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency. Either way, a visit to a vascular or endovascular specialist can help to determine the most suitable course of action.
Chronic venous insufficiency – the key takeaway
Hopefully, this journey through the stages of CVI, reveals the significance of taking vascular health seriously. The veins (often unsung heroes) play a pivotal role in maintaining the correct blood flow around the body, ensuring all extremities like arms and legs are serviced,
While chronic venous insufficiency itself is not a life-threatening condition, it pays to understand the stages of CVI and how and when the symptoms occur. Doing so may empower you to be alert to the symptoms early on, while, at the same time, seeking help to prevent the condition from reaching more serious and debilitating levels.
The good news is that with proper management and lifestyle adjustments, it’s possible to regain a quality of life free from the shackles of chronic venous insufficiency.
If you have experienced any of the conditions listed above no matter how insignificant or infrequent, it pays to seek medical advice. Here at the Midwest Institute for Non-Surgical Therapy, Dr Akinwande ( a vascular and endovascular specialist), and his team use the latest non-surgical, minimally invasive treatments such as sclerotherapy to alleviate the conditions caused by CVI.
Remember, your journey towards better health begins with a single step, so don’t shrug it off, schedule a meeting with MINT today. With four convenient locations scattered across Missouri and Illinois, we’re here for you, when you need us most.
Schedule an appointment online or book at your nearest MINT office.
Photo attribution: image by Freepik