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Swollen Feet, Ankles and Legs – Venous Insufficiency?

December 30th, 2008 by Todd Mann

Venous Insufficiency

The blood vessels that bring blood from the heart to the rest of the body are called arteries and the blood vessels that return blood back to the heart are called veins. Venous insufficiency occurs when the leg veins cannot pump enough blood back to the heart.

In the upright position, blood in the leg veins must go against gravity to return to the heart. To accomplish this, the leg muscles squeeze the veins in the legs and feet to help move blood back to the heart. One-way valves in the veins keep blood flowing in the right direction. When leg muscles relax, the valves inside the veins close.

Some of the more common causes of venous insufficiency include high blood pressure, deep vein thrombosis and phlebitis.

The symptoms of venous insufficiency include swollen ankles and legs as well as the feet. The legs may feel heavy, tired, restless, or achy. Pain while walking or shortly after stopping may also be associated with venous insufficiency. Varicose veins, which are swollen, twisted veins that you can see through the skin, may also develop.

For mild cases of venous insufficiency, a physician may recommend support hose. Support hose (also known as compression stockings) are elastic stockings that squeeze the veins and stop excess blood from flowing backward. Someone with venous insufficiency may need to wear support hose daily for the rest of their life. Losing weight if one is overweight or maintaining an ideal body weight, along with avoiding long periods of standing and by occasionally elevating your legs, can also help reduce swelling in the legs and ankles. More serious cases of venous insufficiency generally are treated with injections or surgery.

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