Dr. Brittany Cook Explains Chronic Venous Insufficiency & Venous Leg Ulcers

Legs that are sore, swollen, and discolored can be embarrassing and even prevent you from enjoying life the way you once did. These symptoms may indicate chronic venous insufficiency, a condition with similar causes and symptoms to varicose veins. It can turn into venous leg ulcers if left alone, so it’s important to get treatment immediately to prevent them from occurring.What is venous insufficiency

Dr. Brittany Cook on Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Chronic venous insufficiency is a common issue for patients. It’s usually accompanied by:

  • Swelling of the leg
  • Pain
  • Changes in the skin of the lower leg

Varicose veins are a symptom of chronic venous insufficiency, which is why their symptoms are practically identical. 

For most patients, the presence of pain and swelling, along with varicose veins and spider veins are enough for diagnosis. On the other hand, it’s possible for patients to have little or no visible veins on the leg, making ultrasounds necessary for diagnosis. 

As Dr. Brittany Cook explains, symptoms such as aching are the most common symptom of chronic venous insufficiency. However, it’s also the least specific. Aching accompanied by cramping, swelling, and even restless leg syndrome are much better indicators of the condition. Patients may also describe a heavy, burning, or itching feeling in their legs as other indicators.

Doctors also keep a lookout for swelling and discoloration (erythema) around the lower leg to indicate chronic venous insufficiency. Spider veins (telangiectasia) around the ankle can also point to insufficient blood flow in the large leg vein near the surface of your skin. 


As it becomes harder for blood to pump back to the heart, the blood will flow back down and turn into spider veins. It’s this reversal of blood flow that leads to chronic venous insufficiency as well as varicose veins. This high pressure results in inflammation, causing white blood cells to gather and pass through the vein wall and into the skin.  

Symptoms and their severity can vary greatly with this condition. However, inflammation is often the common denominator since it’s the cause of the symptoms you’re experiencing.

Unfortunately, symptoms such as swelling and discoloration indicate that the venous insufficiency is at an advanced stage. You’ll need immediate treatment to prevent irreversible damage to your skin and lymphatic system. Symptoms like swelling may be permanent if not addressed early on.

Are you struggling with varicose vein symptoms in cold weather? Check out our complete guide to varicose veins in winter!

Venous Leg Ulcers

Venous leg ulcers are the final stage of untreated chronic venous insufficiency. They represent the long, slow progression of the condition if it hasn’t been addressed much earlier. Often found around the ankles, these open wounds require regular cleaning, dressing, and compression therapy to prevent infection. 

Although these treatments can help, you’ll need to address the underlying chronic venous insufficiency to see real results. Otherwise, they have around a 50% risk of returning. However, the risk of venous leg ulcers coming back plummets to 15% with treatment for chronic venous insufficiency.

Are you worried you suffer from chronic venous insufficiency? Contact us today to schedule your free consultation!

While not the same as varicose veins, chronic venous insufficiency can have many of the same symptoms. More concerning is that they can develop into venous leg ulcers if left untreated. There are ways to manage your symptoms, but the best solution is to seek treatment immediately to prevent ulcers from developing or greatly reduce their risk of returning.

Contact us at East Tennessee Vein Clinic to get help for your varicose veins. We treat varicose veins differently by eliminating the entire network of failed veins, not just large visibly bulging veins. You can contact us online, or call us at 865.686.0507 or toll-free at 866.281.VEIN.

“I have great faith in these people. They are kind and very concerned about each patient. I’ve told everyone that has asked me and I told them I would recommend ETVC to anyone with problems with their legs.”

- B. M., Powell, TN