Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) | Symptoms | MedStar Health

A common chronic condition that can impact quality of life

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a condition in which the veins in the legs malfunction and allow blood to leak backward, causing blood to pool in the legs and putting increased pressure on the veins.

This is one of the most common chronic conditions in the United States and can cause significant pain, swelling, and reduced mobility. Our Vascular and Endovascular Program team will work with you to develop a treatment plan to manage your symptoms and help avoid serious complications.

When left untreated, this condition can lead to skin that is sensitive when bumped or scratched and can cause tissue damage and open sores on the skin’s surface, known as ulcers.


The earlier you are diagnosed and treated for this condition, the better your chances of preventing serious complications.

See your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Swelling, aching, or tiredness in the legs
  • Discoloration of the legs (often a brown discoloration)
  • Hard, thick skin around the ankles
  • Leg ulcers, particularly around the ankles
  • Varicose veins (spider veins)


This condition occurs more frequently in women and people older than 50. Other risk factors include:

  • Deep vein thrombosis

  • Extended periods of sitting or standing
  • Family history of chronic venous insufficiency
  • Inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Varicose veins


Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive way to diagnose and treat a variety of heart and vascular conditions by guiding thin, flexible tubes called catheters through blood vessels to problem areas.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.

Electrocardiogram (ECG) 

An electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG, measures the heart’s electrical activity.


A fluoroscopy is an imaging technique that uses a continuous X-ray beam passed through the body to create real-time, moving images of your internal structures.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets, and computer technology used to create images of your heart and blood vessels.

Stress Tests

Stress tests are used to assess how your heart works during physical activity. There are several types of stress tests, including treadmill or bike stress tests, nuclear stress tests, stress echocardiograms, and chemically induced stress tests.


There are several treatment options; often, the initial treatment is conservative and may include:

  • Avoiding long periods of sitting or standing
  • Elevating your legs while sitting and lying down
  • Exercising regularly
  • Losing weight
  • Wearing compression stockings or Unna’s boots, which are gauze bandages coated with zinc oxide to create a semi-rigid boot

If these treatments are unsuccessful, you doctor may recommend more advanced treatment.


Sclerotherapy is a nonsurgical procedure to treat varicose and spider veins.

Venous Disease Treatments

Venous disease treatment may include medications and minimally invasive and surgical procedures to improve blood flow and circulation.

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