Chronic Venous Insufficiency and Obesity

What is Chronic Venous Insufficiency?

Typically caused by a combination of genetics (eg. family history of deep vein thrombosis), age, sedentary or “standing” lifestyle, severe obesity, hypertension and smoking, chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a disorder of the veins in the leg. The venous valves in the calf become weak and unable to pump blood back to the heart against the force of gravity. The blood therefore pools in the veins of the legs, leading to symptoms such as: swollen ankles, pain after walking, varicose veins, leg ulcers and sores, and swelling of the leg.

Obesity is a Risk Factor For Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Although obesity is not a direct cause of chronic venous insufficiency, it is an important risk factor. This is because obesity, especially morbid obesity, leads to raised blood pressure, a sedentary lifestyle and musculoskeletal problems (hampering mobility and use of leg muscles), all of which are contributory factors in the development of chronic venous insufficiency. Obese women over 50 years of age are most likely to develop serious incidences of this vein disorder.

Morbid Obesity Further Increases Risk of Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Weight-related health problems increase with increased weight. Therefore patients with morbid or malignant obesity are at even higher risk of blood circulatory disorders like chronic venous insufficiency.

Weight Loss is No Cure

There is no specific cure for chronic venous insufficiency, once the condition is developed, although there are a variety of alleviating treatments. These include the use of compression stockings to “squeeze” the legs and prevent blood from flowing backwards and pooling in the leg; injection therapy; and surgery to divide or remove affected veins, or deep-vein bypass surgery for thighs. Reduction of obesity is also beneficial for chronic venous insufficiency although, like all non-surgical treatments, weight loss by itself is no cure.

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