Venous Insufficiency

Description

Venous insufficiency is a condition in which the blood does not flow normally up through the veins in the legs towards the heart.

Venous insufficiency is a health problem that is especially common among women, and its incidence increases with age. In fact, close to 70% of women 80 years and older suffer from venous insufficiency. The risk of developing venous insufficiency is much greater (increases by 45%) if a close family member has it. The following factors also increase one's risk for developing this condition:

  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • Hormones (oral contraceptives or estrogen to relieve symptoms of menopause)
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Prolonged sitting or standing
  • Prolonged exposure to the heat
  • Wearing high heels or tight-fitting clothing

Symptoms

Symptoms associated with venous insufficiency include:

  • Heavy legs
  • Varicose veins
  • Pain
  • Tingling
  • Night cramps
  • Restless leg syndrome (uncontrollable movement of the legs)
  • Bruising
  • Edema (swelling)

Varicose veins are present in 10 to 20% of those aged 30 to 70 years. Varicose veins are twisted veins that are bluish in colour and visible just under the surface of the skin. They appear most commonly in the legs, mainly the calves. Varicose veins can cause discomfort and even pain.

Complications

In some cases, pressure exerted by blood in the veins causes small blood vessels to rupture, which leads to the release of blood into the surrounding tissue. When this occurs, the skin becomes yellowish-brown. In more serious cases, a blood clot may form in a vein (phlebitis). This condition could lead to a pulmonary embolism if the blood clot were to travel through the bloodstream and lodge in the lungs. Another complication that could arise is leg ulcers.

Treatment

To help reduce pain and discomfort, the use of compression stockings is recommended, while getting regular exercise will help activate circulation. Medication can be used to treat intense pain. Other types of therapy are also available and worth considering. Sclerotherapy, a treatment that involves the injection of sclerosing solutions into varicose veins or the use of a laser to close the veins, are suitable options for some. Several types of surgeries can also be performed depending, among other things, on the size and location of the varicose veins.

Prevention

Certain measures can be taken to prevent venous insufficiency and varicose veins. For example, it is recommended that you sleep with your legs elevated, that you soak your legs in cool water and that you maintain a healthy body weight. It is also recommended that you avoid sources of intense heat, wearing high heels and smoking.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to speak to your pharmacist.

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