Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) vs Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) Symptoms: How Do They Differ?

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Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) and peripheral arterial disease (PAD) are conditions that affect blood circulation in the body. They may cause pain, discomfort, and inflammation in the lower extremities. People with obesity, hypertension, and poor lifestyle habits, are at higher risk of developing CVI and PAD.

So how do the symptoms of CVI and PAD differ? PAD affects the arteries and typically has symptoms like cramping and sores. On the other hand, CVI involves the veins and generally has swelling and itchiness as its symptoms. For complete diagnoses and treatments, seek the help of medical professionals.

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CVI Symptoms vs PAD Symptoms

Most people feel the symptoms of PAD and CVI in the legs. Across both diseases, patients may feel aches, cramps, and other similar sensations. Sores and ulcers are also common in both conditions. 

Initial PAD symptoms are less noticeable. Many PAD patients may feel slight numbness and tingling, while people with CVI commonly experience swelling, itchiness, and inflammation. Regardless of which condition you have, these symptoms should subside after a course of treatment from your health care provider.

Symptoms of Chronic Venous Insufficiency

The body’s veins work to move blood towards the heart. The muscles in the legs help by interacting with the veins during walking, running, and other physical activities. During normal circulation, the veins’ valves prevent backward blood flow. 

But in CVI, the valves malfunction, allowing blood to pool in the legs. CVI symptoms can affect the legs, ankles, and feet. In some cases, the symptoms tend to go away after adjusting your legs to an upwards angle. The pain typically returns when you stand or walk in a regular position. 

Leg and Ankle Swelling

Swelling can occur in the legs, ankles, and surrounding areas like the thighs and feet. The swelling comes from fluid retention or inflammation. People with stationary jobs, such as office work, may experience more swelling and leg pain. It is advisable to walk around every hour to promote healthier blood flow in the area. 


Patients with CVI may experience itchiness due to problems with the clotting proteins (fibrinogen) in the body. The buildup of fibrinogen leads to an itchy sensation in the legs, which may coincide with dry and flaky skin. Most patients with vascular disease have itchiness as a chief complaint. 

Some doctors may prescribe topical creams and antihistamines, although the best course of action is to resolve the venous reflux entirely. Avoid vigorously rubbing the area as you may irritate it further. 


Some CVI patients will feel a persistent aching in the legs. The swelling may make it worse, especially after standing for prolonged periods. The leg pain may ease when the lower extremities are at an upward angle but return once the patient stands to do work. You can alternate between sitting and standing during office hours. 

It’s recommended that you take a short break from an hour of desk work to move around. You can walk or stretch your legs to keep your blood flowing. As these movements encourage healthier blood circulation in the legs, you’re preserving vein health as well. 

Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are a common condition, especially among women and older adults. These enlarged veins are associated with CVI since new ones appear at the onset of the disease. 

They usually have a blue-purple or red appearance. Additionally, a lack of blood flow to certain areas of the body leads to the development of new varicose veins. 

Varicose veins are the subject of most vascular surgery options. Phlebectomy, a microsurgery procedure, involves the use of a scalpel to remove the problematic varicose vein. There are also new technologies that involve laser beams to heat and shut off malfunctioning veins. 

Leg Ulcers

Venous ulcers may appear in the legs due to the damaged valves. These valves were made to control blood pressure, but damage to them may cause ulcers to form around the legs. These ulcers can be difficult to treat and are prone to infection. In some cases, they can lead to pus leakage and fever. 

It’s important that you also avoid scratching or touching the area as this can introduce bacteria into the wounds. If you experience leg ulcers, it’s best to contact a medical professional right away.

Symptoms of Peripheral Arterial Disease

Woman experiencing leg cramps

The arteries have the task of driving oxygenated blood away from the heart and into the rest of the body. A healthy artery has smooth walls, steadily allowing blood to flow without hassle. In PAD, the arteries become restricted. This condition leads to problems in blood circulation. 

PAD is common in adults above the age of 40. Its symptoms are usually felt in the lower extremities, such as the legs, ankles, and feet. In some cases, PAD can also affect other major arteries in other organs, such as the kidneys and intestines. 

The symptoms vary per person, depending on the area and severity of the arteries. Some people may experience light or no symptoms at all. 


One of the most common PAD symptoms is cramping. The muscles in the legs may tense up and become painful during walking, running, and other similar activities. People who usually work out will feel more intense cramping that goes away after a few minutes. 

Since arteries experience plaque buildup, the muscles don’t receive enough circulation. The cramping acts as a warning that there is poor blood flow in the legs. You may have difficulty keeping up with regular exercise routines, as the cramping makes it challenging to use a treadmill or lift heavy weights.

The cramping also puts people at a higher risk of injury during workouts. If you experience PAD symptoms, you can notify your personal trainer to adjust your routines temporarily. 

Leg Numbness and Weakness

Some people may experience numbness and fatigue in the legs. People with more severe PAD may have difficulty moving even while resting. The weakness may also come with cramping that goes away during rest. 


Sores also appear in PAD patients. Arterial ulcers are the result of damage to the arteries due to poor blood flow. These wounds may take a long time to heal and need more serious medical intervention. As with CVI sores, avoid touching the area to prevent infection. 

If you experience an infection, don’t self-medicate with antibiotics. Besides being illegal, you might be taking the wrong medications for the bacteria infecting your body. This may lead to antibiotic resistance, which will be a bigger problem in the long run. 

How to Relieve Symptoms of CVI and PAD

Doctors will work with you to formulate a treatment plan that addresses the symptoms of CVI or PAD. In many cases, non-invasive therapies may be necessary to solve the problem.

Lifestyle Changes

The first course of action usually involves lifestyle changes. Doctors may ask you to exercise more, especially cardio movements like walking. A balanced diet will also help relieve some of the symptoms. 

Moderate Exercise

Regular exercise helps make blood circulation better. Walking is one of the easiest and most common ways to work out. Biking, yoga, and stretching may also increase blood flow in the legs without putting too much pressure on the veins and arteries. 

Some doctors may advise you to focus on the core muscles if you’re experiencing pain in the legs. Remember to avoid pushing yourself too much after undergoing treatment for CVI or PAD. 

Dietary Changes

When it comes to dietary changes, the body benefits the most from increased hydration and fiber intake. Water helps the blood vessels work more efficiently by helping flush out waste and other harmful byproducts. Patients who also have a coinciding history of diabetes should avoid consuming too much sugar, as it can also interfere with their recovery. 

Eating more fiber also helps prevent venous insufficiency and similar health conditions. Some fiber-rich food items include:

  • Broccoli and other leafy green vegetables
  • Avocadoes, pears, and apples
  • Oats and brown rice
  • Boiled lentils
  • Chia and flax seeds

Besides fiber, potassium is another food component that helps the cardiovascular system function more effectively. Some of the best food sources for potassium are the following:

  • Bananas and oranges
  • Eggplant
  • Potato products
  • Mushrooms
  • Some variants of fish, such as tuna and trout
  • Dried fruits, like pears and apricots

Loose Clothing

Clothing also affects your blood circulation. While compression garments are a prescribed form of treatment for some cases of CVI and PAD, loose clothing can also help you during casual days at work. Breathable tights and leggings are ideal for most people. Shoes with lower heels and softer soles also help increase blood flow in the legs. 

People with varicose veins may benefit from loose-fitting and breathable clothing since tighter fits can restrict blood flow.

Your First Step To
Being Vein Pain Free

Find exactly what you need to get rid of your vein-related problems. Dr. Sood and the rest of our team at Vein Center Doctor are ready to help: schedule your free consultation today.


Outpatient Treatments Available at Vein Center Doctor

Vein Center Doctor understands the need to treat CVI and PAD as soon as possible. Patients will feel more symptoms as the disease progresses, leading to reduced productivity in daily life. We offer 4 different forms of treatment to address the most common symptoms impacting your activities. 

1) Sclerotherapy

Sclerotherapy is a popular treatment option for those with CVI. The procedure works by directly injecting a suspension into the damaged vein, shutting it off, and restoring blood circulation in the surrounding blood vessels. The vein will then dry out before the body absorbs it after a few weeks or months. 

Sclerotherapy also works for people who experience varicose and spider veins, which increase the chances of developing CVI and PAD.

2) VenaSeal

VenaSeal is another minimally invasive procedure for treating venous problems. A catheter is used to close off the injured vein in this procedure. The catheter contains a specialized medical adhesive that prevents blood flow in the affected area. 

VenaSeal is most effective for people who have edema, pain, itching, or heaviness in their legs. The surgery will also provide relief to those with spider and varicose veins. The doctor will numb the area with a local anesthetic before the surgery. Afterward, they will make a small incision in the skin, which will be used to insert a small catheter. 

To close the vein, the adhesive will flow through the catheter. The procedure is minimally invasive, and healing time is usually short.

3) Venous Compression Therapy

Venous compression therapy is a treatment for improving blood circulation in the legs. This method may relieve people with spider and varicose veins, CVI, and other similar conditions. Compression garments or bandages are used to fulfill the procedure. 

These instruments provide external pressure to the affected area by padding the body. The pressure encourages better blood circulation, which helps restore the veins' structure and functioning. For maximum impact, this type of therapy should be used in combination with other treatment options.

Venous compression therapy increases circulation and reduces recovery time for other procedures when used in conjunction with other treatments. The compression garments speed up the body's absorption of scar tissue, allowing patients to feel better in a matter of weeks.

4) RFA for Varicose Veins

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is another treatment method that shuts off the damaged veins in the body. Similar to the other treatment methods, RFA is minimally invasive. Patients experience little to no discomfort or pain during the procedure. Doctors use ultrasound waves to create an image to map out the blood vessels in the body. 

The affected areas will be numbed via a local anesthetic, which is administered through an injection. The doctor will also insert a catheter inside the damaged blood vessel. Using heat, the RFA procedure closes off the damaged vessel entirely. Recovery time usually only takes a few days, although varicose veins may take a few months to disappear. 

Patients can return to their daily activities right away. However, light bruising may appear on the body for the first two weeks. 

Get Your Vein Conditions Treated at Vein Center Doctor

Vein Center Doctor is a leading health care provider for people experiencing problems with their blood vessel walls. Our team of professionals is among the best in the Ardsley, NY and Clifton, NJ areas. We offer 4 alternative options to vascular surgery, providing you with the best care possible. 

We work closely with our patients to work towards your management of issues with your superficial veins. Contact us to schedule a consultation about your blood vessel concerns or visit our clinic today. 

Your First Step To Being Vein Pain Free

Find exactly what you need to get rid of your vein-related problems. Dr. Sood and the rest of our team at Vein Center Doctor are ready to help: schedule your free consultation today.

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