When you notice varicose veins on your legs, you are likely aware that something is not quite right in the way your veins are functioning. However, what you might not be aware of is that your varicose veins could be a small part of a larger problem: chronic venous insufficiency. Chronic venous insufficiency (or CVI) presents itself in several stages. Understanding how to recognize each stage allows you to make choices about your treatment that will help you avoid dangerous complications. A NJ vein expert explains how below.
What are the stages of chronic venous insufficiency?
To understand the stages of CVI, it is important to know how healthy veins function. Your veins are responsible for transporting deoxygenated blood from your extremities, organs, and other tissues back to your heart. To do so, these vessels rely on a series of tiny one-way valves. When the valves open, your blood is allowed to flow towards your heart. When closed, the valves prevent blood from giving into gravity and flowing back to your feet and ankles. CVI occurs when this system fails. Instead of moving upwards, blood and fluids settle into the lower extremities, leading to problems that worsen over time.
Each case of superficial vein disease (a term used for vein disease visible on the skin’s surface) is different, but there are enough similarities between symptoms that NJ vascular doctors can often predict how symptoms will progress without treatment. In most cases, the earliest signs of CVI are spider veins (thread-like discolored veins that are visible on the skin’s surface) and varicose veins (larger, bluish-purple veins that bulge outward). Such veins are unsightly, but do not constitute a medical emergency. Some patients choose to simply wear long pants rather than seek treatment at this stage.
While simply covering up might help prevent embarrassment, it does not stop the disease from progressing. Without NJ vein disease treatment, most patients begin to experience discomfort in their legs. The skin around the varicose veins can become itchy or sore, while the leg itself might begin to feel tired, achy, or heavy. Without intervention, the diseased veins can become overwhelmed and allow fluids to pool in the ankles and calves, leading to uncomfortable swelling.
Prolonged poor circulation puts the patient at risk for changes in the skin’s color and texture. As the cells in pooled blood begin to break down, they can stain the skin a reddish-brown color. The skin in this area can also become tough, leathery, and more prone to injury. In some cases these skin changes are irreversible.
In the final stages of chronic venous insufficiency, the injury-prone skin on the ankles and calves develops ulcers. Poor circulation deprives skin tissue of nutrients. Therefore, if the skin breaks, it might be slow to heal, or it might not heal at all. Such sores, known as ulcers, are unlikely to respond to topical treatments and might persist until the underlying vein disease is addressed.
Treatment stops vein disease in its tracks
If you are suffering from some of the earlier stages of vein disease, minimally invasive treatment can help to stop it from growing worse. When you consult with one of the top vein doctors in Bergen County (such as Dr. John Chuback), you will receive a better understanding of the root causes of your vein disease as well as guidance on how best to treat it. To schedule a meeting with Dr. Chuback, call our office at 201-693-4847. With prompt treatment, vein disease can be addressed before it reaches its most advanced stages.