Venous Insufficiency can cause burning, itching, swollen painful legs.
While arteries carry blood away from the heart, veins carry it back. In order to make sure that the blood only flow in one direction, they have valves. If the valves do not work properly then blood may pool in the limbs (especially the legs). This is called reflux. It can cause swelling, burning, itching and skin color changes. Your legs may also feel heavy, tired, restless, or achy. You may feel pain while walking or shortly after stopping. This is called venous insufficiency.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) may be associated with varicose veins. Varicose veins are swollen veins that you can see through the skin. They often look blue, bulging, and twisted. Large varicose veins can lead to skin changes like rashes, redness, and sores. In severe cases, CVI and the leg swelling can cause ulcers to form on the lower parts of the leg.
When you are in the upright position or walking your leg muscles squeeze the deep veins. This helps move blood back to your heart. This process is called the venous pump. But when you sit or stand, especially for a long time, the blood in your leg veins can pool. Over time this can weaken, or stretch, the veins walls and damage the valves. Treatment for venous disorders commonly includes the use of compression stockings, and/or leg elevation. Depending upon the severity of the condition (reflux, insufficiency or thrombosis) different medications may be tried. Doctors have tried high doses of anti-inflammatory medicines in hopes that they can decrease inflammation, if present. In the most severe cases, anticoagulation with Heparin or Coumadin may be required. Newer low molecular weight heparin like agents are available today as well. While they do require daily injections, they have been proven to be safe and effective, can be done as an out patient and require little or no monitoring.
There are also some natural products that can be helpful in less severe cases. On of the best studied is Bolouke (Lumbrokinase). This earth worm enzyme extract has been proven to break down fibrin (which is a component of blood clots). Even though it is not regulated by the FDA, because it is effective, patients would be wise to notify their doctor if they take this product. Since Bolouke can break down fibrin, it may be effective in reflux or insufficiency by cleaning off the vein walls and valves, effectively scrubbing them free of debris, and allowing the valve to work properly again. In other cases tiny little clots may distort the valve much like rust does to a hinge. If a real clot develops it is called thrombosis. If the vein becomes inflamed it is called phlebitis. If the valve is involved, a poorly functioning valve can occur and venous insufficiency may result.
Factors that can increase your risk for venous disorders include a family history of varicose veins, being overweight, being pregnant, not exercising enough, smoking, and standing or sitting for long periods of time. Although insufficiency can affect anyone, age and sex are factors that increase the tendency to develop it; women get venous disorders more often in women then men. The risk of thrombosis is greater post surgically (especially with joint replacements and vascular surgeries). Most cases of reflux and insufficiency can be treated medically as described above. Only more severe cases require invasive procedures to prevent further disease. With an increased index of suspicion you and your doctor can detect venous changes before they become severe and provide early, effective treatment.