One of the first symptoms that most patients experience with chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is lower leg pain. The sensation is described as a heaviness, aching or deep throbbing in the foot, ankle or calf. The onset of pain is not related to physical activity but instead, occurs most often or worsens when an individual is less active and vertically standing or sitting down for long periods of time. Leg pain at night is also a common phenomenon. Hot weather can incite leg pain and while walking, some patients describe pain in the first few steps that slowly lessens with movement.
Leg pain associated with CVI is the result of pressure buildup and swelling caused by the pooling or collection of blood in the legs. Swelling may or may not be visible and pain tends to subside with movement because when the leg muscles contract with activity, they increase blood flow.
Women over the age of 50, or individuals who spend majority of time on their feet (EMS, retail or food service employees) are at a greater risk for developing chronic venous insufficiency; however, leg pain and CVI can develop in individuals who live an overly sedentary lifestyle, as well. Other risk factors include a family history of CVI, obesity, pregnancy and high blood pressure.
For immediate relief of lower leg pain associated with CVI, doctors may recommend elevating the feet several times a day for a period of 15 to 30 minutes per session to help drain blood and alleviate pressure. Compression stockings may also be prescribed to aid in healthy blood flow.
Ultimately, the insufficient vein function must be corrected. Several minimally invasive procedures are available for the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency, including: endovenous radiofrequency ablation (RFA), ambulatory phlebectomy and ultrasound guided sclerotherapy.