What is Venous Insufficiency?

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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 06 April 2020
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Venous insufficiency is a medical disorder where the veins are unable to properly transport blood from the lower extremities, in particular the legs, and back into the heart. Most commonly, this condition is due to improper circulation in the veins. When a person has venous insufficiency, normal blood flow through the veins is restricted by a valve leakage or blockage in the vein. As the blood becomes backed up, it may start to pool. This may cause pain and swelling in the legs and often in the feet as well.

Frequently, venous insufficiency is caused by certain vein conditions. There are valves in veins which direct the flow of blood. The valves mainly keep blood moving in the right direction, going forward and toward the heart. Sometimes, venous insufficiency occurs when the valves become damaged and the normal flow of blood is compromised. Additionally, varicose veins and blood clots or deep vein thrombosis can also cause this type of insufficiency.

Varicose veins are large, twisted veins, commonly found in the legs. They usually appear near the skin's surface. When blood pools in veins, it may cause them to swell and varicose veins to form. A second common cause of venous insufficiency is deep vein thrombosis. These are blood clots that form in deep veins.


The greatest symptom of venous insufficiency may be leg pain. The pain may vary from a dull aching to extreme bouts of discomfort. Standing for long periods of time may intensify the pain. As a result of the blood pooling in the legs, they may become tight and swollen. A person may experience leg cramps and leg tingling as well.

An individual may also experience changes in the skin on the legs and or ankles. The person may get itchy skin and it may become thickened in certain areas. Often, the skin may become discolored. Many people with venous insufficiency will have a great deal of redness on the skin. If a person gets varicose veins, the enlarged veins may be very noticeable to the naked eye.

Doctors will generally try to treat the most unsettling symptoms in a person with venous insufficiency. Pain relievers may be prescribed if pain is the greatest complication. If a person is experiencing a great amount of swelling in the legs, he or she may be given compression stockings to wear. These will be used to increase blood flow by applying pressure to the legs. In some incidences surgery may be indicated as treatment, in which certain veins may need to be removed.


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