What You Need to Know About Chronic Venous Disease

What you need to know about chronic venous disease
What you need to know about chronic venous disease

Your veins keep blood circulating throughout your body. Normally, blood flow to your limbs is controlled by one-way valves that help propel your blood back to your heart. Sometimes these valves stop functioning, allowing blood to pool in the legs, which can progress to a condition called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). If not treated, CVI often causes lymphedema, which leads to swelling and skin changes.

Common stages of chronic venous disease

Chronic venous disease is a progressive condition. This means it cannot be cured, and often gets worse over time. However, when identified early and treated consistently, CVI can be managed effectively at home.

Doctors have identified four common stages of chronic venous disease. You can be diagnosed and treated at any stage.

Stage 1

Your veins may be visible with some discoloration (spider veins) but the lymphatic system is not affected and there is very little swelling.

Stage 2

Your veins may protrude (varicose veins) and your legs may feel uncomfortable.

Stage 3

You’ll experience significant swelling (edema), as stagnant proteins pool in the legs, which could be lymphedema, and the likelihood of infection increases.

Stage 4

As CVI and lymphedema progress, you’ll start to see changes to your skin, including discoloration, eczema, fibrosis (hardening), and highly visible discolored veins may develop.

Stage 5

You’ll start to have open wounds (ulcers) that are slow to heal, and fat deposits will start to appear.

Common symptoms of chronic venous disease

Chronic venous disease typically appears with one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Painful or itchy legs
  • Swelling in legs and ankles
  • Pain that stops when resting
  • Discolored skin
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Leg cramps or muscle spasms
  • Skin changes
  • Varicose veins
  • Open wounds

You can take control of your chronic venous disease and accompanying lymphedema by carefully following the treatment plan outlined by your doctor, which could include in-office treatments, self-care, and/or an at-home pneumatic compression device.