Chronic Venous Insufficiency and Your Feet

Lower limb vascular examinationOur veins are tasked with returning de-oxygenated blood to the heart. You can think of them as being akin to one-way highways. Valves in the veins ensure the one-way flow of this bluish, purple blood (because it lacks oxygen). They prevent backflow. But in our legs, our veins have an entirely uphill route back to the heart. The muscles in your feet and calves help out by contracting with every step you take, helping to push the blood up through the veins. 

This works well when we’re young and our muscles are strong and tissues firm and tight. But our vein walls weaken with age. Plus, our valves begin to leak and create some backflow; this allows the blood to pool in the veins. This happens in a condition called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). CVI can lead to varicose veins, swelling in the legs and ankles, itching skin on the legs and feet, and even skin infections. It is estimated that 40 percent of the people of the United States population have some degree of CVI. 

At our five Foot & Ankle Clinics of Utah locations, we take care of your feet when the power of your veins isn’t providing the oxygen and cleansing they need due to venous insufficiency.   

What causes chronic venous insufficiency? 

CVI occurs when the valves in the veins become damaged, allowing blood to leak backward. This can be a result of a blood clot in the deep veins of the legs, a disease known as deep vein thrombosis. It can also be a result of aging, extended sitting or standing, or obesity. CVI is more common in women and in people over the age of 50. 

What are the risk factors for chronic venous insufficiency? 

There are certain risk factors that make it more likely a person will develop CVI. These are the most important risk factors: 

  •     Varicose veins
  •     Deep vein thrombosis
  •     Obesity
  •     Inactivity
  •     Extended periods of sitting or standing
  •     Being a female
  •     Being over the age of 50
  •     Pregnancy
  •     Smoking

How does venous insufficiency affect the feet? 

The feet can be directly impacted by venous insufficiency, as the restricted blood flow impedes wound healing, and this typically occurs at the most distant lengths from the heart, the lower legs and feet. These are signs in your legs and feet to watch for: 

  •     Persistent swelling of the lower legs
  •     Bluish discoloration of the skin at your ankles
  •     Venous ulcers that develop on the ankles and feet that don’t heal
  •     Heaviness in the legs and feet

If you have sores on your ankles and feet that seem to never heal, it could be venous insufficiency. Give us a call at any of our five locations in American Fork (801), 763-3885; Payson, (801) 765-1718; Springville (801) 491-3668; and Orem (two locations), (801) 226-2421 or (801) 765-1718. 


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