Leg Vein Health

Updated 27 January 2016

Chronic venous insufficiency

Chronic veinous insufficiency (CVI) occurs when your leg veins cannot pump enough blood back to your heart and as a result, blood pools in the legs and feet.

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) occurs when your leg veins cannot pump enough blood back to your heart due to damage to the vein valves.

Vein valves are one-way flaps that help blood in your legs to flow against gravity when a person is in the upright position. Sitting or standing stationary for long periods of time may cause the veins to stretch, which can weaken the vein walls and damage vein valves.

When these valves are damaged, the blood leaks and pools in the legs and feet. CVI is a long-term condition and occurs because of partial vein blockage or blood leakage around the valves of the veins.

Risk factors

  • Age
  • Being female (related to levels of the hormone progesterone)
  • Being tall
  • Family history of varicose veins
  • Genetic factors
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Prolonged sitting or standing
  • Insufficient exercise
  • Smoking


  • Dull aching, heaviness, or cramping in legs
  • Itching and tingling
  • Pain increases when standing
  • Raising legs relieves pain
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Redness of legs and ankles
  • Skin colour changes around the ankles
  • Superficial varicose veins
  • Thickening of the skin on legs and ankles
  • Ulcers on the legs and ankles


Compression stockings can be used to decrease chronic swelling.

  • Avoid long periods of sitting or standing – even moving your legs slightly will help the blood in your veins return to your heart.
  • Skin breakdown or infection is treated with wound-care methods.

Source: National Institutes of Health


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