Can Venous Insufficiency Become Chronic?

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Blood flow and blood pressure are two essential aspects that enable our body to function properly - it's why blood clots and vein disease can be such serious issues. In some cases, the cause is acute: an injury, break in the skin, or sudden weight gain causing a condition like venous insufficiency. Normally, these conditions are manageable if you pay attention to them immediately.

But can venous insufficiency become chronic? If your blood circulation isn't improved or the underlying cause of your venous insufficiency isn't treated, your acute condition can progress to something chronic. While it's not a serious medical condition compared to other blood or heart-related diseases or disorders, it's still best to get treatment for venous insufficiency as early as possible to avoid this from happening.

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How Venous Insufficiency Can Become Chronic

Venous insufficiency doesn't always start as a chronic condition. In many cases, venous insufficiency can be triggered by other long-standing conditions, including but not limited to:

  • Obesity
  • Phlebitis (swelling or inflammation in the legs)
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise or physical activity
  • Pregnancy
  • Trauma or injury to the leg
  • Family history or medical history of similar symptoms

When these conditions have caused sufficient damage to your veins or to your circulatory system, venous insufficiency can occur. This causes blood to pool along the extremities of your body (usually around the legs), preventing their proper flow back to your heart.

While there isn't a hard-set cause for the escalation, chronic venous insufficiency usually develops from acute venous insufficiency when symptoms haven't received any treatment. This causes more blood to pool underneath the skin and more possibilities for blood clots to occur. Because leg veins constantly fight against gravity to circulate properly, they’re some of the most common sites for chronic venous insufficiency.

Once a blood vessel is no longer working, then the excess pooling of blood will affect the overall direction of blood flow in that specific area. Your vein walls can only do so much to affect the flow of blood before venous obstruction occurs - resulting in a damaged vein that develops into chronic venous insufficiency.

What are the Complications If Acute Venous Insufficiency Becomes Chronic?

Chronic venous insufficiency isn't a serious condition by itself. But if left untreated, and especially progressing from acute status, it can develop into severe complications that are more difficult to treat. Some of the complications from chronic venous insufficiency include:

Varicose Veins

By far one of the most common complications from chronic venous insufficiency is varicose veins. While normally associated with other causes like aging, varicose veins are caused by any condition that causes blood pools underneath your skin - including acute and chronic venous insufficiency. It's actually not uncommon for this condition to appear at the same time any venous insufficiency occurs.

Varicose veins twist and enlarge any veins just underneath the skin, which cause the bluish-purple veins and painful swelling characteristic of varicose veins. The longer the pooling of blood goes on because of your venous insufficiency, the more healthy veins will get affected by improper blood flow, especially in areas like the legs. 

Venous Stasis Ulcers

In severe cases of chronic venous insufficiency, the enlarged veins burst on the surface and turn into venous ulcers. This usually happens because a capillary is so swollen with blood that the venous valves cause high blood pressure, stretching your vein walls and eventually causing them to break down and turn into sores. A venous stasis ulcer is incredibly painful and may require extensive treatment to manage.

An ulcer can even get infected if the symptoms aren't treated early, which can result in even more damage to the surrounding skin and tissue. If caught early, the venous insufficiency causing the unusual blood pressure can be relieved and the ulcer may start to heal on its own. However, this relies on getting any infected or dead tissue out of the way, especially if your venous insufficiency has already rapidly progressed.

Tissue Inflammation

A slightly less severe form of venous stasis ulcer is tissue inflammation. When deep veins start to bulge as more and more superficial veins experience blood pools, the skin and tissue surrounding your venous system will start to swell in response. Symptoms of this condition can vary depending on the patient - while some may simply experience some discomfort, others can get acute or chronic pain.

Tissue inflammation can lead to plenty of other complications in your body, some of which may not even be related to venous insufficiency at all. Inflammation of the skin and tissue can cause a variety of issues and may require a medical procedure to manage. Even if these conditions are managed, the damage to the underlying veins may require further medical intervention to treat.

Skin Damage

Venous obstruction means that your body's normal pathways of getting the nutrients it needs to function and maintain itself. This means that the processes normally responsible for keeping your skin healthy slow down, making it more prone to wear and tear from your daily activities. If you already have a risk for other pre-existing conditions, weakened skin just makes it more likely that you'll trigger them.

These concerns aren't always cosmetic in nature like dry skin - infections and other similar conditions are far more likely to occur on damaged skin. In severe cases, your skin may start to break down from the inside, as more and more blood is stopped by your venous obstruction. Health conditions that are also triggered by sensitive skin can be more severe.

Cellulitis

One particularly severe complication you can get from chronic venous insufficiency is cellulitis, a bacterial infection that can start from an ulcer and then spread to other areas of your skin. In severe cases, only surgical treatment can help relieve cellulitis - and that's already adding to the surgical procedures needed to get rid of the underlying infection in the first place.

The bacteria that cause cellulitis usually enter through the lower leg, since it's an area of the body that you can potentially miss to clean. Additionally, it's near the ground and often brushes up against dirt, debris, and other things that can carry bacteria. With open sores and active ulcers caused by venous obstructions, your severe symptoms can easily spread to other areas of the skin.

What to Do to Avoid Chronic Venous Insufficiency

The best way to avoid your venous insufficiency from turning chronic is to get examined by a medical professional as soon as you notice any symptoms. Anything from skin irritation to visible varicose veins can be a potential sign of venous insufficiency, and the sooner you get looked at by a healthcare provider, the better.

In many cases, simply following the treatment option from your provider will be more than enough to treat your case of venous insufficiency. If you have a favorable response to treatment, your provider may also consider other treatment options that can help speed up your recovery and prevent any additional blood clotting in the future.

Treatments for Acute and Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Legs wearing compression stockings

In most cases, the treatment option for acute and chronic venous insufficiency is the same: by unblocking the venous segments and preventing any more pooling of blood. This avoids any other adverse events from developing from your venous disorder, triggers the healing of ulcers (if any), and allows the return of blood to the heart again.

Medication

In many cases, taking medications that prevent blood clotting can help restore the normal flow of blood without surgical procedures. Diluted veins let more blood through the body and back to the heart, and can prevent the formation of any additional blood clots.

Medication is particularly effective if you're also suffering from the post-thrombotic syndrome, where your venous system still feels the effect of deep vein thrombosis. Since the active symptoms from this complication are often chronic, they can work to treat both venous insufficiencies and help the body recover better from deep-vein thrombosis.

Lifestyle Changes

If venous insufficiency is caught in its early stages, a provider can recommend lifestyle changes and specialized clothing like elastic compression stockings to relieve blood pressure on the legs. By using compression garments, the additional pressure can speed up the return of blood to the heart alongside minimizing any risk of forming blood clots.

Exercise and physical therapy are also great options if the patient has a good initial response to treatment. Movements focusing on leg elevation, relieving venous pressure, and keeping the circulatory system healthy have all shown favorable long-term results, especially under the supervision of an experienced health care provider.

Surgical Techniques

For severe cases of acute or chronic venous insufficiency, treatment options include venous ligation and ambulatory phlebectomy. Venous ligation is the more common surgical treatment - by cutting off or tying off a vein, any venous obstruction is quickly relieved and the compression on your venous system stops. You can also consider vein stripping, where the affected vein is removed in its entirety.

A healthcare provider can also choose to conduct vein repair, especially if the vein system is much deeper inside the skin. For the most severe of cases, vein transplantation can be an effective method with long-term results. But patients should keep in mind that it's an invasive procedure that requires plenty of downtime for a full recovery.

Sclerotherapy

Commonly used for varicose veins, sclerotherapy has also seen success in treating cases of venous insufficiency. It's a non-surgical treatment that relies on collapsing the blocked blood vessel, transforming it into scar tissue that your body absorbs over time. It can be applied to specific venous segments, which can help spot-treat specific areas on the body experiencing venous insufficiency.

Sclerotherapy is a quick and efficient substitute for varicose vein surgery, allowing you to correct many venous disorders without the need for surgical techniques. The lack of invasive techniques means that many patients who get this treatment can make it home on the same day - though full, visible results from the procedure will likely take several weeks.

Endovenous Thermal Ablation

By using high-frequency radio waves or laser therapy, ablation treatments look to heat and close specific venous segments without the need for injections or incisions. Endovenous laser ablation is frequently combined with other treatments like compression therapy since their effects don't interfere with each other, and leave any muscles in the affected area safe from any trauma.

In many cases, the primary treatment for the management of mild venous insufficiency is often ablation, combined with other treatments that can help relieve blood pressure. With careful application, this method can even relieve severe symptoms from venous insufficiency, especially with the oversight of a skilled medical provider.

Get Expert Treatment for Any Vein Issue at Vein Center Doctor Today

Venous insufficiency can become a chronic condition, but this usually occurs when your symptoms aren't treated immediately. This is why it's important to be examined by a medical professional as soon as you see something unusual with the veins on your skin. The earlier a venous disease is detected, the sooner you can get treatment for it - and otherwise, avoid long-term complications like chronic venous insufficiency.

Vein Center Doctor has plenty of experience in treating venous diseases like venous insufficiency or deep vein thrombosis. We use effective, long-term, and non-invasive treatments to manage issues like varicose veins and spider veins, with the best medical experts and well-trained staff to help you with every concern you might have.

Reach out to us today and call 1-862-227-1054.

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