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What is Venous Insufficiency?

In order to understand venous insufficiency it is important to be familiar with the circulatory system within the human body. Blood is carried throughout the body in a network of arteries and veins, which together make up the circulatory system. Arteries carry fresh blood from the heart to tissue, including the lower legs and feet. This fresh blood provides these tissues with the oxygen and nutrients needed to keep them healthy. Veins carry the used blood back to the heart so that it may pick up more nutrients and circulate again.

Venous insufficiency occurs when these veins and their valves become damaged. This prevents the blood from properly flowing from the feet, up the leg, to the heart. The system becomes backed up, causing the blood and fluid to be trapped in the feet, ankles and lower legs, which results in swelling of these areas.

Veins and their valves become damaged due to many reasons. Venous insufficiency often occurs in middle aged and older adults, and although at times can be inherited, often is due to lifestyle factors. Some of these lifestyle factors which make an individual more at risk to developing venous insufficiency are diabetes or being overweight, working at a job for many years which has required you to stand for long periods of time, smoking, drinking alcohol, not eating a well balanced diet or pregnancy.

Along with chronic swelling, there are other complications associated with venous insufficiency. Skin problems such as weeping of fluid, itching, hardened reddish/brown skin and a rash may be present. Painful, irregularly shaped wounds located just above the ankle, and throbbing in the lower legs at night are other signs that the venous system has been damaged.